MANILA — The Department of Health acknowledged on Friday that the country has been unable to reach its target for COVID-19 tests but it promised to continue improving testing capacity as it now has 20 licensed laboratories.
“Bagama't hindi pa tayo pumapalo sa 8,000 test per day, ikinagagalak naming ibalita ang pagsisimula ng full scale operation ng laboratoryo ng Philippine Red Cross,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing.
(While we have not reached 8,000 tests per day, we are happy to inform the public that the full-scale operation of the Philippine Red Cross laboratory has started.)
Marikina's testing lab has also been approved.
“Amin pong ibinabalita na kahapon ay nalagpasan na naipasa na ng Marikina Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory ang stage 4 proficiency testing at ngayon ay lisensyado na po at puwede nang gumawa ng mga test sa kanilang laboratoryo,” Vergeire said.
(We already reported yesterday that the Marikina Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory has passed its stage 4 proficiency testing and is now licensed to run tests.)
The Marikina city government had in the past complained about the supposedly slow certification process of the DOH. The DOH, on the other hand, insisted that it was only ensuring that the laboratories are up to biosafety standards.
Vergeire said they are also looking forward to the opening of the J.B. Lingad Memorial Hospital’s new laboratory on May 10. She said it can run 3,000 tests daily.
The J.B. Lingad Memorial Hospital in Region III recently received $2.5 million worth of laboratory equipment from the Asian Development Bank. These will be used to give the much-needed boost for the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
The government had promised to pursue enhanced testing and reach 8,000 tests a day by April 30 amid calls for mass testing, but the average has only been over 4,000 tests a day for the last couple of days.
Vergeire recognized the importance of testing during a pandemic.
“Ang ating testing capacity ay kritikal sapagkat sa maagang pagde-detect at pag-isolate ng mga kaso ay masisiguro natin na kakaunti ang mahahawa at hindi kakalat pa lalo ang sakit na ito,” she said.
(Our testing capacity is critical because early detection and isolation of cases would ensure that fewer people will be infected and that the virus would not further spread.)
She said they continue to assist laboratories who are still undergoing the certification process so the country can reach its goal of 30,000 tests per day by end of May.
Vergeire earlier cited encoding delays in the country's failure to reach the target daily number of tests.
There are now 20 COVID-19 certified laboratories in the country:
- Research Institute for Tropical Medicine
- San Lazaro Hospital
- UP National Institutes of Health
- Lung Center of the Philippines
- St. Luke's Medical Center- QC
- The Medical City - Ortigas
- Victoriano Luna -AFRIMS
- Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory
- St. Luke's Medical Center - BGC
- Makati Medical Center
- Philippine Red Cross
- Chinese General Hospital
- Philippine Genome Center UP-Diliman
- Marikina City Health Office
- Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center
- Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory
- Western Visayas Medical Center
- Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center
- Southern Philippines Medical Center
The DOH said it already received 4,167 Sansure RT-PCR kits, which should be able to generate 100,000 tests. Vergeire said they are also expecting to receive another 100,000 test kits soon.
She said having enough test kits are essential in improving the country’s testing capacity.
As of April 30, the country has tested 97,505 individuals for COVID-19. Of these, 86,649 resulted in negative tests and 10,700 resulted in positive tests.
The DOH said there are now 8,772 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Vergeire has said before that the number of positive tests is higher than confirmed cases because there is still a need for validation and processing.