MANILA -- The Philippine government is targeting to build and accredit additional laboratories by the end of the month to ramp up coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing in the country, BCDA President Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer for the country’s COVID-19 response, announced Monday night.
“Our goal is to build or accredit 58 more laboratories para po by May 30, we will have 78 laboratories all over the country, strategically located in areas that can really address the future surges in communities all over the country,” Dizon told President Duterte during a meeting of the IATF in Malacanang.
He said that these 58 laboratories are already in the advanced stages of accreditation. The government earlier announced that it plans to increase its testing capacity to 30,000 tests per day by the end of the month.
“Once we have enough testing capacity, mas magiging kampante po tayo na mag-ease ng restriction,” Dizon added, as he noted the example of ASEAN neighbor Vietnam, which has been able to build 112 testing laboratories as part of its COVID-19 response.
"If we have the testing capacity, mabilis po tayong makaka-test, mabilis po nating maa-identify kung sino ang may sakit at dahil doon po mabilis po natin silang maa-isolate at mapipigilan ang pag-surge ng infection sa community," Dizon said.
"Ang kalaban po ay ang disease, hindi po 'yong taong may sakit. Ang kalaban po ay 'yong sakit itself but to unmask that we have to test," he added.
"We need to really invest in the testing capacity also because we know that a vaccine is forthcoming soon," he said.
Dizon said isolation facilities and swabbing centers should also be prioritized, together with testing facilities.
"'Yong isolation po and treatment they go hand in hand because we want to make sure that our hospitals do not get too congested," he said. "Kasi po kahit na tayo'y may lab kung wala naman pong specimen na ite-test 'yong lab, eh hindi po natin matetest ang ating mga kababayan."
Dizon was appointed on Friday as the deputy chief implementer of National Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (NIATF-EID).
NIATF-EID chief implementer Carlito Galvez, meanwhile, said that they plan to build 3 of these testing laboratories in Zamboanga city to address the sudden upsurge of COVID-19 cases in the area. Zamboanga City currently has 42 reported cases of COVID-19, according to data from the Department of Health.
“So tatlong laboratory po ang itatayo natin sa Zamboanga city to also cater Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Sinabi ko po kay Mayor (Beng Climaco) na kailangan po pangalagaan din niya ang Bangsamoro dahil kasi yung kanyang location sya po ang melting pot ng BARMM.
The government will also fast track the construction of a mega quarantine facility in Zamboanga City, Galvez added.
Metro Manila and other parts of the country remain under the enhanced community quarantine in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The Philippines on Monday recorded the highest number of COVID-19 recoveries in a day, 101, bringing the total to 1,315 recoveries with 9,485 total cases and 623 fatalities so far. - with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News