DOH eyes expanding mass COVID-19 testing to include asymptomatic frontliners

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 13 2020 02:44 PM

DOH eyes expanding mass COVID-19 testing to include asymptomatic frontliners 1
A tent area to receive possible COVID-19 patients stands at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City on February 5, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Asymptomatic frontliners in the country may also be tested for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) once the Philippines' health authorities expand the testing capacity to 8,000 tests per day, the Department of Health said Monday.

DOH spokesperson Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said the department is working on shifting to "progressive" COVID-19 testing from a "risk-based" one as it gears for increased capability to detect the disease.

"'Pag dumating na po tayo na capacitated na ang lab and we will be reaching 8,000 tests per day, then i-expand na po natin ang coverage ng ating populasyon para makasama ang kahit walang sintomas pero frontliners naman natin," Vergeire said.

(Once our laboratories are capacitated and we will be reaching 8,000 tests per day, then we can expand our coverage to include asymptomatic frontliners.)

Under the current "risk-based" system for COVID-19 testing, the health department prioritizes detecting the disease among those who are severely ill, the vulnerable like the elderly and those with existing health conditions, and healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 patients and with symptoms.

Vergeire also assured the public that the health department maintains the same clinical management for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases despite a new classification system.

The DOH changed the classification to "suspect," "probable" and "confirmed," with the first two covering those previously tagged as persons under investigation. It also removed the "person under monitoring" classification.

Under the new system, the DOH classifies those with COVID-19 symptoms but remain untested as "suspect," while those awaiting results as "probable." 

Meanwhile, patients with positive results from official testing labs will be considered "confirmed" cases. 

Vergeire said the new system is in line with global standards in reporting of COVID-19 cases.

"Gusto lang po natin klaruhin sa ating mga kababayan na wala po tayong binago sa clinical management or sa management po ng ating mga COVID-19 cases," Vergeire said.

(We want to clarify that we did not change anything with the clinical management of our COVID-19 cases.)

"Ang persons under monitoring ay siya pa rin pong mga tao na walang sintomas ngunit nagkaroon ng exposure, or di kaya ay nagkaroon ng history of travel. At sila po ay patuloy nating babantayan, patuloy pa ring i-a-isolate kung maka-identify po tayo ng ganyang kaso," she added.

(Persons under monitoring are still those without symptoms but had exposure or has history of travel. And we continue to monitor them, and will continue to isolate them if we identify such cases.)

The Philippines as of Sunday confirmed 4,648 cases of the disease, with 297 deaths and 197 patients who recovered.