DOH says COVID-19 testing now takes 5 to 7 days, RITM to address backlog soon

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2020 12:52 PM | Updated as of Mar 27 2020 01:02 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said results of tests of patients under investigation for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were taking up a week because of backlogs.

“Sa ngayon sa Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) tumatagal ng 5 hanggang 7 araw dahil sa nangyari na backlog,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire during the televised Laging Handa briefing.

(Right now at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine it’s taking them 5 to 7 days because of the backlog.)

The test itself only takes a few hours but the whole process, including the delivery of the samples, makes the normal processing time last 24 to 48 hours. That was the processing time for COVID-19 tests in the Philippines before cases surged.

There are now 707 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

“Ang kanilang commitment matatapos lahat ng backlog in 2 to 3 days,” Vergeire said of the RITM.

(Their commitment is to finish the backlog in 2 to 3 days.)

According to DOH data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, half of COVID-19 fatalities only had their test results released on the day of or after their deaths.

The longest wait was 10 days for PH600, an 87-year old Filipino male from Sultan Kudarat who died on March 14 but was only confirmed as a COVID-19 case on March 24.

Netizens also decried the reported VIP treatment given to some politicians but the DOH denied that their test results were being expedited.

The DOH insisted that they are still following the “first-in first-out” policy when processing test results.

There has been a backlog in the processing of test results because of the limited test kits and laboratories in the country. But the Philippines recently received 100,000 test kits from China and has opened a number of additional laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

The DOH said it expects the number of confirmed cases to surge as their laboratory capabilities have been expanded.

Vergeire said the DOH has released 5,000 test kits each to the new subnational laboratories: Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, and the Lung Center of the Philippines.