DOH denies expedited COVID-19 testing for VIPs, only extends 'courtesy’ to some officials

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2020 05:29 PM | Updated as of Mar 23 2020 06:12 PM

MANILA — The Philippines' health department on Monday said it has "no policy for VIP treatment" in conducting tests for the novel coronavirus disease in the country.

“The DOH assures the public that there is no policy for VIP treatment and that all specimens are being processed on a first-in, first-out basis,” the agency said in a statement.

But it said it accords courtesy "to officials holding positions of national security and public health.” It has yet to respond to the question on which government positions is covered by this.

The statement was issued after majority of senators took the test for COVID-19 despite not experiencing any symptoms.

The agency has also not responded as to why relatives of some officials were reportedly allowed to take the same test even though they do not show any symptoms or are at risk for severe illness.

Besides President Rodrigo Duterte, his partner and children also underwent COVID-19 testing. This was announced on March 17.

In its statement, the health department said "criteria for testing all patients follows published screening protocols."

"Following an update of the screening protocols last March 16, only the following are eligible for testing: (1) PUIs with mild symptoms who are elderly, with underlying condition, immunocompromised, and (2) admitted PUIs in severe and critical condition," it said.

PUIs stands for persons under investigation for the novel coronavirus disease. They are those who show symptoms of COVID-19 and traveled recently to a country with local transmission of the disease or came into contact with a known case.

“These are extraordinary times, but we are hopeful that with the arrival of 100,000 testing kits and accreditation of additional sub-national laboratories and dedicated COVID-19 referral hospitals, more cases will be detected and appropriately managed,” the agency said.

Because of the shortage of test kits in the past weeks, the DOH stopped testing PUIs with mild symptoms unless they are at risk.

As of Monday afternoon, there are 462 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, of whom 33 died while 18 recovered.