Baguio tests Huawei tech that screens potential COVID-19 cases

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2020 10:07 AM | Updated as of Mar 25 2020 10:48 AM

MANILA - Baguio City has started testing a diagnostic system by Chinese tech giant Huawei to identify "highly probable" cases of the novel coronavirus, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said Wednesday.

Powered by artificial intelligence, the Huawei COVID-19 CT scan could yield 98-percent accurate results in 2 minutes, said Magalong.

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Three patients who are under monitoring for possible COVID-19 infection participated in initial tests of the diagnostic system on Tuesday, making Baguio the first in the country to try this technology, he told ABS-CBN News.

The trio tested negative for viral infection of the lungs. Their test results will still have to be validated through test kits from the health department, he said in a text message.

More patients will test the Huawei system on Wednesday, he added.

"At least ma-screen agad natin sinong pupunta sa containment center, sinong pupunta sa isolation room... Malalaman mo kung sino pauuwiin mo muna," the mayor said in a DZMM interview.

(At least we can immediately screen who should go to the containment center, to the isolation room. You'll know who to send home.)

Baguio City, he said, only had about 5 test kits from the health department as of Monday. These kits can yield results in 4-6 days, which will be subject to another round of tests at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine in Muntinupa, said Magalong.

"Kami rito sa Baguio City, nag-iisip na kami kung ganyan pala kabagal ang pagdating ng mga test kit, maghanap na lang tayo ng ibang katulong natin," he said.

(We here in Baguio are thinking that if the arrival of test kits will be that slow, let's just find someone else who could help.)

Baguio as of Tuesday has one confirmed case of the respiratory disease: a 55-year-old woman. Five others, including one fatality, had tested positive for COVID-19 in "presumptive" tests and were still waiting for the results of confirmatory tests, said Magalong.

Across the country, there were 35 deaths and 20 patients who recovered out of the total 552 cases of the respiratory disease as of Tuesday. The tally is expected to spike with the arrival of additional test kits from abroad, the health department earlier said.

The entire Luzon, home to half of the Philippines' 100 million people, is under lockdown until April 12 to contain the pandemic.