DOH ‘hopeful’ to reach 8,000 testing capacity soon, cites encoding delays

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 30 2020 04:57 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2020 06:47 PM

MANILA — The Philippine government is hopeful it would soon reach its target 8,000 COVID-19 tests daily as current figures still fall short amid calls for mass testing for the disease. 

“Kami ay hopeful na ngayong araw ay may maibigay kami na kahit na malapit na resulta na diyan (sa 8,000),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing with media on Thursday morning. 

(We are hopeful that today we will be able to give figures that would be close to that.)

The 8,000 daily tests target was in response to calls for mass testing.

The Department of Health (DOH) has admitted to struggling in dealing with paper forms as it and reporting health facilities have been unable to update their records with the onslaught of new COVID-19 cases.

The DOH again cited this problem when on Wednesday it only reported just over 3,000 tests conducted.

Vergeire said the testing capacity of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and other accredited laboratories could go as high as 6,300 or as low as 2,895 daily.

“In actual, ang highest natin per day na nagawa is 4,907. Kahapon is 3,900 plus because there were 2 labs which were not able to provide reports,” she added.

(In actual, the highest number of tests per day was 4,907. Yesterday it was only around 3,900 because 2 laboratories were not able to provide reports.)

Vergeire pointed out that while laboratories are able to run tests, some tests are not immediately recorded because of the lack of encoders.

She said some laboratories might only have 2 encoders despite the fact that they run thousands of tests a day.

“Ang ginawa namin kagabi nakapag-mobilize kami ng maraming mag-e-encode para lang mahabol itong encoding and hopefully maipasok natin ito sa accomplishment, itong tapos na test pero hindi pa nae-encode ang resulta,” she said.

(What we did last night was mobilize many encoders so we can catch up with the encoding and including those tests in the accomplishment report.)

She said another problem is that personnel of local government units do not completely fill up the necessary forms for COVID-19 cases.

Vergeire said the turnaround time of tests and data now is at 3 to 4 days.

The Philippines currently has 19 accredited laboratories for COVID-19 testing. There are more than 40 other laboratories that are also applying for accreditation.

But Vergeire said the delay or the bottle neck is not with the DOH.

She said some laboratories are unable to comply with requirements because they do not have experience in biosafety.

She said they are now pinpointing laboratories around the country that should be prioritized and assisted by the DOH.