COVID-19 testing drops below 6,000 daily, labs ordered to operate 7 days a week

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2020 01:00 PM

MANILA — The Philippines tested less than 6,000 samples for the new coronavirus last Monday when the presidential palace announced that the country's daily testing capacity has already reached 32,000 last May 20.

According to Department of Health data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team, samples tested on Sunday only reached 6,016, and on Monday, 5,914. On May 14, the number of tests conducted reached 11,123.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire attributed this to such factors as supply shortages, damaged equipment and limited operating hours, prompting the DOH to require laboratories to run 7 days a week.

“We had a meeting with all of our laboratories yesterday because we were seeing a downward trend,” Vergeire said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum Wednesday.

“One of the main issues again would be the supply,” Vergeire said, adding that the DOH is already helping the laboratories source the supplies needed.

Contributing to the declining COVID-19 testing is the damaged exhaust system of the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health that affected its operations.

“Yung ating Bicol, nakabalik lang sa ating operasyon ngayon pong Lunes,” Vergeire added, referring to the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory that was damaged during the onslaught of Typhoon Ambo (International name: Vongfong) this month.

(Our laboratory in Bicol had just returned operations this Monday.)

Vergeire had also mentioned how heavy rains last week caused problems for the Philippine Red Cross’ testing operations.

“At pagkatapos po, meron tayong 8 private laboratories na hindi nag-o-operate kapag Linggo,” she revealed. “Nagkaroon na ho ng instruction si (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque kagabi na lahat ng laboratoryo ay hindi na maaari pang magkaroon ng 1 day off para sa kanilang operations.”

(And then, we have 8 private laboratories that do not operate during Sunday. Health Secretary Francisco Duque already gave instructions last night that all laboratories are not allowed to have a 1 day off for their operations.)

She said the DOH asked the laboratories to do their decontamination procedures during break times or “lull times in their processing.”

Vergeire said they will also give targets for each laboratory to allow them to monitor their progress and to encourage them to commit to the ramping up of their testing capacity.

The Philippine government has promised to reach 30,000 actual tests a day by the end of May.

Vergeire said they are in the process of consulting with experts on the maximum capacity for each laboratory. While all accredited laboratories can ideally run 30,000 tests a day, Vergeire has explained that they have yet to compute the actual capacity if they consider the operational issues.

She said they will work on the figures and release the target to the public soon.

Vergeire said on Tuesday that the country has 42 licensed laboratories for COVID-19 testing. The application of others remains pending.

The country has logged 14,669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 3,412 recoveries and 886 fatalities, as of Tuesday afternoon.

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