MANILA - A mega swabbing facility at the SM Mall of Asia Arena that can accommodate 1,000 swabs per day is set to open Friday.
Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementor of the government’s COVID-19 response, said the facility will test in the coming days the estimated 20,000 overseas Filipino workers already under quarantine in Metro Manila.
“We need to swab them because we need to establish whether or not they are positive or negative for COVID-19 while they are undergoing quarantine,” he said in an ANC Headstart interview.
If they test positive, the OFW has to continue undergoing quarantine. Once they test negative, the OFW will be given a certificate allowing them to go home to their respective provinces and undergo home quarantine.
“After we have completed and finished the 20,000 more or less OFWs, we are then going to proceed to partner with our local government units so that the suspects and the probable in the communities are going to be brought here and swab here,” he said.
Dizon said the facility has 72 testing booths which will be manned by nurses, medical technicians, nursing assistants and encoders and other staff to ensure the safety of both the frontliners and the public.
"The booths provide physical barriers between the patient and the frontliner and make the frontliner less exposed, and makes the risk of infection or transmission very, very low,” he said.
He said the government is targeting 30,000 swabs per day by the end of the month. But this would also depend on laboratory capacity and getting specimens from the ground.
The Department of Health acknowledged that the country has been unable to reach its target of 8,000 COVID-19 tests a day by April 30.
“To reach 8,000 is impossible if you only have a laboratory capacity of 3,000 to 4,0000 so we have to first of all increase our lab capacity and that’s why we are very thankful to the Philippine Red Cross because the Philippine Red Cross really increased our lab capacity by so much,” Dizon said.
He said the labs that Red Cross got accredited resulted in an increase of capacity of 8,000 per day.
“Ang lab capacity of Red Cross alone is 8,000, so add that to the existing government capacity and add again the other private laboratories that have already been accredited by the RITM and the DOH were now at a lab capacity of roughly around 12,000 per day,” he said.
Dizon shared that there were only 3 laboratories that test specimens back in February.
“We now have 20 and the goal is to add 50 plus labs within this month and those labs are in already the latter stages of accreditation by the government,” he shared.
Swabbing, testing and quarantine facilities must be set up all over the country as the infection is not only concentrated in one area.