100,000 COVID-19 test kits from China allocated to subnational labs: DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2020 01:20 PM | Updated as of Mar 23 2020 01:22 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday said it has already allocated the 100,000 donated test kits from China to the country’s 5 subnational laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

“The allocation is based on the need and capacity of the laboratory. How many tests they can run in a day,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in Filipino during the Laging Handa briefing of Malacanang.

Vergeire said a bulk of the test kits will be at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which has the largest capacity because of the number of PCR machines they have.

Asked if the 100,000 test kits are enough to start mass testing, Vergeire reiterated that they have a protocol. 

The DOH has said only those with severe symptoms and are at risk like the elderly or patients with pre-existing conditions will be tested and admitted to hospitals. They have advised those with mild symptoms to undergo home quarantine instead.

NO TO RAPID TEST KITS

Vergeire also emphasized that the DOH is not recommending the use of rapid test kits or COVID-19 test kits that are not done within laboratories. 

“These can give false negative results,” Vergeire said, explaining that the rapid test kits use immunoglobulins to check if a person has a past infection or acute infection.

“It measures antibodies that are not immediately measured in a person at the start of the infection,” she added.

Vergeire said it will be a problem if patients are sent home because of false negatives since they are contagious.

FDA APPROVAL 

As for the test kits being donated by other countries, Vergeire said the Food and Drug Administration has a “parallel process” for their approval.

She said the test kits should be recognized by other reputable regulatory agencies in countries like Japan, United States and South Korea. FDA will also approve them if they are included in the World Health Organization’s Emergency Use List. 

The FDA earlier told ABS-CBN News that it can approve test kits in a day or two as long as the company’s documents are complete.