DOH explains why 100,000 test kits still not enough for mass testing

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 08:16 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2020 10:37 PM

MANILA - Even with 100,000 test kits received recently from China, the Philippines still cannot pursue mass testing for COVID-19, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

In a televised briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that while 100,000 test kits sound like a lot, it is not enough for 100,000 people.

Vergeire explained that COVID-19 positive patients need at least two tests during the course of their treatment. 

The test kits also undergo testing before being sent to laboratories, she added.

“People need to understand the process behind it and the numbers,” Vergeire said.

The official explained that the Philippines does not have enough laboratories to process the tests.

“We need laboratories to do this. We need people to process the tests,” she said. “What we are already doing is, we’re extending the capacities of the laboratories so we can test more.”

Because of this, she said they will have to prioritize those who have symptoms, especially those who are considered severe cases or part of the vulnerable population. These are the elderly and those with such pre-existing conditions as hypertension, asthma, diabetes and other illnesses.

The DOH said it will take a few weeks before the locally-made test kits of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) finish field tests. After that, it needs to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The DOH earlier said that it was running 600 to 800 tests a day at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine at the peak of the country’s repatriation efforts.

The DOH website, though, shows that only a total of 1,793 tests have been concluded as of Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the health department assured the public all five sub-national laboratories across the country are now operational.