MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap is negative for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) said Friday as it apologized for making a "clerical oversight" on the release of a false positive diagnosis.
"We wish to publicly apologize to Cong. Eric Go Yap of ACT-CIS Partylist for forwarding a report of his COVID-19 results that displayed a clerical oversight," the state-run health research facility said in a statement.
"Rep. Yap remains negative of COVID-19," it added.
The mistake was due to an encoding error, the RITM said, and was discovered late Thursday night by its molecular biology laboratory.
Despite the incident, RITM maintained its testing process is compliant with the World Health Organization (WHO) protocol and that its results remain accurate.
The RITM uses the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing procedure, considered as the gold standard in detecting the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19.
"Again, we profusely and sincerely apologize to Hon. Eric Go Yap for the unnecessary discomfort this incident has caused," the health research facility said.
The individual responsible for the error was part of an augmentation staff and had been dealt with administratively following the incident, the RITM said.
"For the assurance of the public, we have reviewed all results we have previously forwarded and we affirm that this incident remains isolated. We have also added another layer of verification for all succeeding reports we will submit," it said.
RITM added: "We promise that this, and other associated incidents, will never happen again."
Yap accepts RITM apology, still vouches for test accuracy
In a statement, Yap said he had been having a hard time since his diagnosis but added that he understood the mistake and accepts RITM's apology.
"Inaamin ko, the past 48 hours has been very hard for me and to everyone around me. Hindi naging madali ito pero buong puso kong tinatanggap ang apology ng DOH-RITM," he said.
(I admit, the past 48 hours has been very hard for me and to everyone around me. It wasn't easy but I wholeheartedly accept the apology of DOH-RITM.)
He said it was RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos who called him to explain.
"Naiintindihan ko, they are the busiest medical facility in the country right now. It's not an excuse pero normal na nagkakaroon ng pagkakamali sa dami at sa pressure na tinatanggap ng RITM ngayon," he said.
(I understand, they are the busiest medical facility in the country right now. It's not an excuse but it's normal to make mistakes with everything they're doing and the pressure they get.)
He said the release of his correct results is "not a cause for celebration for me" with millions affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
"I will not harbor hard feelings towards anybody and I urge everybody to stay home and keep safe from this virus," he said.
He still vouched for the accuracy of RITM testing, saying there was no mistake in processing his sample.
"This is just a clerical error and should not be taken against RITM, hindi sila nagkamali ng pagprocess ng samples ko, hindi sila nagkamali sa basa ng results ko. I thank God for this news but let us not keep our guards down. Sama-sama pa din natin sugpuin ang COVID!" he said.
(This is just a clerical error and should not be taken against RITM, they did not err in processing my samples, they did not err in reading my result. I thank God for this news but let us not keep our guards down. Together, let us conquer COVID!)
Malacañang, meanwhile, called on RITM to be more careful in releasing test results as it welcomed Yap's revised diagnosis.
"We are pleased to hear about the the COVID-19 negative test of of Cong. Eric Yap. While the erroneous reporting of Cong Yap’s COVID-19 positive has caused alarm and anxiety to those who had close physical contact with him and made them undergo self- quarantine nevertheless such good news is welcome," said Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
"We appeal to the RITM to be more certain of the test results before releasing them to the patients or to their doctors to avoid such unfortunate incident," he said.
Yap's false diagnosis had prompted several lawmakers to go on self-quarantine as they were present in official functions he also attended, including a meeting at the Malacañang Palace on March 21.
Presidential Security Group Commander Col. Jesus Durante said his unit would proceed with ordering personnel to undergo self-quarantine.
He said investigation of Yap's alleged breach of protocol would continue, as he had gone to Malacañang without declaring that he had been exposed to someone with coronavirus.
- with a report from Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News