MANILA (UPDATE) - The 8 COVID-19 test kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration for commercial use cannot be availed by ordinary people on their own to test themselves, the Department of Health said Sunday.
"A lot of citizens have this notion that they can just buy from a drugstore and they can test themselves. These are not rapid diagnostic kits," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ANC.
"It needs a capable laboratory for it to be used. This is not to be done at home. You cannot buy it in regular drug stores."
The FDA, in a statement, said it has not yet approved any point-of-care or rapid test kits for COVID-19.
[LINK STATEMENT: https://www.fda.gov.ph/wala-pang-aprubadong-point-of-care-covid-19-test-kits/]
"Ang mga naunang nailabas na listahan ng FDA na aprubadong COVID 19 test kits ay gumagamit ng Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). Ito ay isang proseso na nangangailangan ng PCR Machine sa laboratoryo at mga tauhang may sapat na kaalaman sa paggamit nito," it said.
(The approved COVID-19 test kits earlier announced by the FDA uses Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). It is a process that requires PCR machine at the laboratory and personnel with expertise.)
As of Saturday, there are 5 subnational laboratories processing the COVID-19 testing: the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu, and the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
Vergeire emphasized that the COVID-19 is a "biosafety hazard" following Marikina City's purchase of a laboratory testing center for the virus.
"When you do the processing, you have a very high risk for your healthcare workers and also to the community. If you do not have the expertise, you are just exposing our community to increased risk of infection."
"We laud you for the efforts you had been doing to take care of your citizens but there are guidelines and regulatory measures you need to follow in order for us to have safe and effective interventions being provided to our community."
Vergeire said the agency would send a team to Marikina on Monday to provide technical assistance and training.
Meantime, the accessibility of COVID-19 test kits is seen to "enhance" the management of patients suspected of carrying the disease, according to Dr. Rontgene Solante, who heads the infectious diseases section of the government-run San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
"The manner by which we manage our patient, whether he’s COVID positive or COVID-probable, is the same but the impact there is that the positive result is not only for us but also for the family," he said when asked about the significance of immediately determining if a person is COVID-19 positive.
"It also has an impact on the relatives, on contact tracing, how many are those exposed in the family, secondary exposure. These are important matters to us healthcare workers."
As of Sunday, there are 380 cases of COVID-19 in the country, including 25 deaths and 15 recoveries.