DOH: PH almost at par with other countries after it tests 1M people

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 17 2020 03:40 PM | Updated as of Jul 17 2020 04:37 PM

Medical technologists administer an antibody test for COVID-19 at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health in Pasig City on July 8. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday cited the country’s milestone of testing more than 1 million people as proof that the Philippines is doing relatively well in terms of testing.

“We were able to already test more than 1 million people here in the Philippines,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a Friday morning briefing.

“So pag tinignan mo yan, medyo at par naman tayo sa ibang bansa (If you look at that, we are slightly at par with other countries) because they are testing about 1% to 2% of their population also. So that is part of the goal of the Philippines to reach 1.5 million people,” she said.

The latest DOH situationer report on COVID-19 stated that as of Wednesday, 987,246 individuals have been tested in the Philippines since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, samples tested totaled 1,062,659. This might now be higher since the country is testing an average of around 20,000 samples a day. 

In May, the government said it was hoping to test up to 2 percent of the Philippine population, which is 2 million people in total.

Since the start of the pandemic, the DOH has struggled to raise the number of testing laboratories and samples being tested, although the numbers have started to improve in the past weeks.

Vergeire recalled how the Philippines had to send its samples to Australia for testing.

“Now we have 87 laboratories,” she said.

“Dati 300 lang napo-produce nating test per day. Pero ngayon we are already producing more than 20,000 tests per day,” she added.

(Before, we could only run 300 tests per day. But now we are producing more than 20,000 tests per day.)

Vergeire said this after being asked about University of the Philippines professor Dr. Gene Nisperos’s comments questioning the government’s efforts to boost the health sector even before the pandemic.

Nisperos, who is also an officer of the Community Medicine and Development Foundation, questioned earlier the alleged “militaristic” approach of the government against COVID-19.

He had also questioned the recent decision of the government to send uniformed personnel to join contact tracing groups in local communities.

But Vergeire said no country was ready for the pandemic and all had to adjust when the outbreak started.

“Marami nang nagawa for our health system pero hindi natin sinasabi sapat na yan. kasi sa araw araw na bina-battle natin itong virus na ito, nakikita natin ang dami pa rin nating kulang at kailangan pa nating dagdagan,” she admitted.

(We have done a lot for our health system but we are not saying that is enough because every day that we are battling this virus, we are seeing shortages and things that we need to increase.)

She assured the public that the government will not stop from working to improve the health system of the country.