DOH: PH can’t maximize daily COVID-19 tests due to ‘supply, operational issues’

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 10:39 PM

MANILA — Even with more than 70 licensed laboratories, the Philippines has only been able to run an average of 14,000 COVID-19 tests a day.

“Actual testing capacity is averaging about 13,000 to 14,000 tests per day,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Tuesday morning.

Vergeire said that this is despite the rated capacity of more than 50,000 tests a day of the laboratories.

Asked why this is the case, she said it was because of “operational issues.”

In May, daily testing was averaging only 8,500 to 9,500. The goal then was to reach 30,000 tests a day. But the country’s laboratories faced problems, such as equipment damaged by typhoons and leaking ceilings.

“ ’Pag nakita natin we have a lot of testing kits but for the other supplies doon tayo nagkakaproblema ngayon,” Vergeire said.

(We have a lot of testing kits but for other supplies that’s where the problem is.

She said these are laboratory supplies such as extraction kits and pipettes.

“There are shortages internationally,” she said. “We still need a lot of supplies.”

On June 17, the Philippines only had 45 laboratories but it was already able to reach 16,000 tests a day. After that though, daily testing dropped again and remained below the 17,000-mark.

Data from DOH. Graph from ABS-CBN Data Analytics

Even with 72 laboratories, including those using automated machines, daily testing only reached 13,660 on June 29, according to the DOH situationer. 

Vergeire said manpower has long been a problem although it is no longer that evident now as they were able to hire more encoders to help the laboratories send their reports.

The health official said that once they are able to stabilize laboratory supplies and hire additional personnel, “hopefully we can ramp up our testing capacity.”