MANILA — COVID-19 testing remains insufficient and state medical insurer PhilHealth needs to pay screening laboratories, government acknowledged on Thursday, as the Philippines struggled to curb a spike in coronavirus infections.
The Philippines conducts about 60,000 coronavirus tests per day, up from 50,000 in past months, said National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon.
“Kulang pa rin po ito, pero marami tayong mga hamon ngayon,” he said in a Palace press briefing.
(This is still insufficient, but we are facing many challenges.)
Testing operations slow down when personnel catch COVID-19 during surges, Dizon said.
Another “big challenge” is PhilHealth’s pending reimbursement of laboratories which temporarily shouldered the cost of free tests for qualified individuals, he said. The official did not say how much PhilHealth owed.
“Naiintindihan natin ang hirap ng ating mga financial resources ngayon, sabay-sabay po ang mga gastos, pagpapa-ospital, testing, pagbabakuna, pagbibigay ng ayuda,” said Dizon, who is the country’s testing “czar.”
(We understand the difficulty with our financial resources. Expenses rack up for hospitalization, testing, vaccination, aid distribution.)
“Pero makikipag-ugnayan po tayo sa mga susunod na araw sa PhilHealth para naman po eh mai-reimburse po ang ating mga laboratoryo para mas mabilis silang makakabili ng mga supplies at mabilis silang makakapag-test.”
(But we will coordinate in the coming days with PhilHealth so that our laboratories can be reimbursed and buy supplies so they could test more quickly.)
Vice President Leni Robredo earlier called on pandemic leaders to raise the daily COVID-19 testing to 150,000, among other measures, to achieve government's goal of making Metro Manila's current lockdown the "last ever."
With some 1.7 million coronavirus infections and 30,000 deaths, the Philippines is battling one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with the latest surge driven by the Delta variant.
Authorities on Thursday were set to meet on whether or not to extend the strict lockdown in Metro Manila, home to some 13 million people.