Some key government officials were allowed to undergo laboratory tests for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) despite not having symptoms because they qualified for testing based on previous criteria set by the Department of Health, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained on Friday.
"Noong ginawa po natin ang mga test na ito sa ating mga high level officials, ang atin pong testing or diagnostic criteria ay hindi pa nababago," Vergeire said in a press briefing.
"During the time ay nakapasok pa sila doon sa criteria natin. Ibig sabihin po kasi dati kahit walang sintomas basta may history of exposure, may history of travel for the past 14 days in a country with localized transmission ay tine-test natin," she added.
While she could not recall the exact date when the changes to the protocol were made, it was likely on March 16 or earlier.
Based on the algorithm for the triage of patients with possible COVID-19 infection that was released by the DOH as of March 11, asymptomatic patients with exposure history needed to undergo a 14-day home quarantine.
They would be considered persons under monitoring but were not recommended for testing unless they started manifesting symptoms and had been assessed to be high-risk due to other underlying diseases and age.
During that week, several leaders in the executive and legislative branches of the government went on self-quarantine after interacting with people who were found to have COVID-19.
Most of them were asymptomatic but were allowed to take the COVID-19 test.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Bong Go submitted samples for COVID-19 testing on March 12. The results showed they were not infected.
Among the lawmakers, only Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri tested positive for the virus. He initially said he did not experience any symptoms but later admitted that he had a slight fever before the test results came out.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque was the latest Cabinet member to undergo the test after being exposed to an infected colleague at the DOH.
Vergeire said the DOH chief was asymptomatic but had to undergo the test because he belonged to the elderly population and also has asthma and hypertension. His test results were still pending. — DVM, GMA News