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Duterte orders purchase of test kits, lab materials

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered the procurement of test kits and other laboratory equipment that would be used in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ahead of the start of widespread testing of suspected cases.

Duterte has paved the way for the purchase of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines and consumables, automatic extracting machines, biomedical freezers, and rapid test and PCR-based COVID-19 test kits.

He explained that the purchase of the rapid test kits is delayed because these have to pass through the Health Technology Assessment Council.

“When you use public funds on anything that's medical, you need to have the health assessment… But unfortunately, they're still debating on the efficacy of the rapid test kits we would like to buy,” the President said in his weekly update on the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the government’s COVID-19 response, said he had already coursed the “immediate procurement” of the materials through the Department of Budget and Management.

He added that 40,000 PCR-based kits from China-based Sansure Biotech Inc. can test 900,000 people

Additionally, the rapid test kits can test some two million Filipinos.

The Department of Health earlier maintained that PCR-based test kits are the “gold standard” since they can detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Rapid test kits, on the other hand, can only detect the antibodies produced by the body to combat the disease and are prone to false negatives or false positives even if these can produce results faster than PCR-based kits.

“We really have to have a safety for the false positive and the false negative with the PCR in order for us also to test the efficacy of the rapid test,” Galvez said.

“We have to really buy both. The PCR and all the automated retraction, it costs us P3.2 billion.”

Earlier in the day, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 35,804 individuals had been tested for COVID-19 as of Sunday evening, 30,585 of whom tested negative and 5,187 were positive.

The Philippines has recorded nearly 5,000 COVID-19 cases with 315 deaths and 242 recoveries. -- BAP, GMA News