PH arena to be first testing site with COVID-19 lab: official

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 20 2020 04:22 PM

The conversion of the Philippine Arena into a coronavirus testing center is complete and it is ready to open in a few days, officials said Wednesday.

MANILA - The Philippine Arena coronavirus testing center will also house a laboratory, an official said Wednesday, as government sought to ramp up testing ahead of the arrival of some 42,000 Filipino migrant workers.

The laboratory will have a target capacity of 500 per day and is expected to be completed in 2 to 3 weeks, according to coronavirus testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon.

The facility has 96 booths with a swabbing capacity of 1,500 a day, he added.

“Ito pong Philippine Arena is a model for how we set up the end-to-end infrastructure ng test, trace, treat,” Dizon said, as he thanked the religious group Iglesia ni Cristo, which owns the complex.

The swabbing center will be manned by personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection and priority will be given to repatriated Filipino migrant workers.

Government seeks to address the backlog of coronavirus testing among overseas Filipino workers within 2 weeks, according to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19.

"We will expedite 'yung decongestion ng ating OFWs dito sa Metro Manila. Para at least 'yung 42,000 OFWs this coming May and June ay maasikaso namin,” he said.

(We will expedite the decongestion of OFWs in Metro Manila. So that at least the 42,000 coming this May and June can be looked after.)

Upon arrival in Manila, Filipino repatriates are sent to quarantine facilities where they stay for two weeks and sent to their hometowns if cleared from COVID-19. 

Of some 28,000 OFWs swabbed, 5,000 have yet to receive their test results, Dizon said.

The percentage of OFWs that test positive for the virus has declined to 2.2 percent from 8 percent, Galvez added.

MASS TESTING?

Dizon cautioned the media against using the phrase “mass testing,” which he said confuses the public into thinking that everyone needs to be tested. 

He made the remark after Malacañang was criticized for leaving the testing of returning workers up to their employers. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said government was conducting "expanded targeted testing."

“Walang bansa sa buong mundo ang tinetest ang 100 percent ng populasyon. Kasi hindi kailangan. Masyado 'yang mahal,” Dizon said.

(There is no country in the world that tests 100 percent of the population. Because it is unnecessary. That's too expensive.)

Instead of region-wide lockdowns, government will implement “surgical lockdowns” should COVID-19 cases spike again in some areas following the easing of the community quarantine, according to Galvez.

“Kapag buong region (ang i-lockdown), ang economy mamatay. There has to be a balance between health and economy,” he said.

(If you place an entire region on lockdown, the economy dies. There has to be a balance between health and economy.)