As COVID-19 soars, Philippines urged to boost testing to 130,000 daily

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2021 04:22 PM

A resident undergoes a COVID-19 test at a quarantine facility in San Andres, Manila on Jan. 4, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— The Philippines should ramp up COVID-19 testing to curb soaring coronavirus infections, an expert said Wednesday.

Dr. Peter Cayton of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said the country should further expand its testing capacity to at least 130,000 per day to better track the spread of the virus.

This is based on the standard of the World Health Organization, in which the daily positivity rate must be below 5 percent— an indicator that the outbreak is under control.

Cayton said the Philippines reached its highest daily testing rate on March 20, with over 51,000 individuals.

"Yes, that is the maximum but in terms of how COVID-19 is spreading, we need to be testing more," he said.

When more people are tested, infections are detected and contained, which could lead to a decline in the number of positive cases, he added.

On March 21, the country posted a positivity rate of 15 percent, which suggests a higher percentage of infection in the population.

Cayton, an associate professor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, also called on Metro Manila mayors to increase their daily testing capacity to at least 91,000. The capital region has so far conducted its highest COVID-19 testing on March 20, with more than 31,000.

The region continues to be the country's virus epicenter.

"It means we have to triple our efforts in NCR for testing. We are not saying everyone should be tested immediately but it should be sufficient so we can catch up with the transmission," he said.

Based on a short-term COVID-19 forecast from March 22 to 28, the country's daily infections may reach 12,900, Cayton said. 

In Metro Manila, daily cases may peak at 7,800, citing the current transmission rate.

In his report, Cayton lamented several issues with COVID-19 data from the Department of Health.

Among them is the number of those with the date of recovery, which is only at 33.97 percent, he said.

"Only 1 out of 3 have [the] date on when they recovered while two-thirds of recoveries, we don't know when they recovered," Cayton said.

He also cited "imperfections" in the DOH data, such as patients listed as asymptomatic, but have dates of onset of illness or symptoms in their data.

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Courtesy of AGHAM - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People