PH eyes 5-time increase in virus detection capacity with pooled testing

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2020 04:27 PM

An Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from Thailand holds his 2-year-old son as he covers his nose at a swab testing center for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) in Manila on May 13, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Philippines eyes increasing its coronavirus testing capacity by five times, Malacañang said Monday, as the government turns to pooled testing.

The government is eyeing pooled testing starting with groups of five, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said.

"On top of individual PCR testing, we are moving towards pooled PCR testing," Concepcion said during a Palace press briefing.

With pooled testing, samples from a group of individuals would be tested as one. If the results come back negative, everyone in the group is cleared of COVID-19. But if the results return positive, each individual will be tested separately for the virus.

"Ito pong pooled testing, ibig sabihin, times five na ang ating testing, divided by five ang costs, at mas mabilis," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

(Pooled testing means that we can test five times more, at a cost that is divided by five, and at a faster pace.)

Employing pooled testing could bring the cost of COVID-19 testing to around P750 per person, Concepcion said, noting that some 18 companies have already expressed support for the program.

"Pooled testing will work and we will start with pools of 5," Concepcion said.

Pooled testing begins in the Philippines' business district--Makati City--and will soon be expanded across Metro Manila, he added.

The Philippines' current COVID-19 testing program prioritizes symptomatic patients, vulnerable individuals, and frontliners with a high risk of contracting the virus.

COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon had said that the country has yet to maximize its testing capacity as it averages over 33,000 actual tests daily.