DOH says COVID-19 test backlogs of 3,600 soon to be resolved

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 01:33 PM | Updated as of May 28 2020 03:25 PM

Employees wait for their turn to undergo rapid testing at the Supreme Court open grounds in Manila on May 26, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said the country’s laboratories are now working on a backlog of around 3,600 COVID-19 tests.

“Ang backlodg natin, nag-umpisa tayo dati, we had almost 12,000, mga two weeks ago,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters during a briefing on Thursday morning.

(When we started, we had a backlog of almost 12,000. Around two weeks ago.)

Vergeire said the backlog has since gone down to 7,000 by Monday, and further to 3,683, as of Wednesday.

Graph from ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team.

The term backlog is used to refer to samples that are not tested, or test results that are not released beyond 72 hours. The DOH said their target is to run tests 48 to 72 hours upon receiving samples. 

“If we go past 72 hours, it’s considered a backlog,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire said they met up with the accredited COVID-19 laboratories on Monday.

“We have instructed them to reduce the backlogs in 2-3 days, as ordered by the Office of the President,” she said. “Binigyan namin s'ya ng strategies on how to do it. And, yesterday we saw the progress already. Nabawasan na tayo ng almost 40% of the backlogs that we had last Monday.”

(We gave them strategies on how to do it. And yesterday, we saw the progress already. We reduced almost 40% of the backlogs that we had last Monday.)

Vergeire said the laboratories committed to further reduce backlogs by the end of the day.

“And tomorrow, we can start fresh with our laboratories,” she said.

The DOH had earlier said that among the causes of backlogs are limited supplies, manpower and laboratories.

While Malacañang has said that the country’s more than 40 laboratories have a maximum testing capacity of 32,000 tests a day, the DOH said the actual testing is much lower because of various factors, including damaged equipment because of the recent typhoon.

This week, daily testing dipped to as low as below 6,000.

Vergeire said they had started helping the laboratories source supplies through the private sector.

They are also expecting testing to increase now that the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory and the University of the Philippines National Institutes for Health are operational again.

She said they are expecting more laboratories to be licensed before the month ends.

“Meron na rin tayong mga pop-up labs. These are the modular labs. Idinidikit sa isang malaking facility o kaya sa remote areas,” she said.

(We have pop-up labs. These are modular labs that will be attached to a big facility or be placed in remote areas.)

She said there are already some in place at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, in Mandaluyong City, and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. Three others will be placed in other parts of the country. 

The government plans to reach 30,000 tests daily by May 31.

The Philippines has recorded more than 15,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Wednesday, including 904 deaths and 3,506 recoveries.