Forty staff at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) have tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the director of the country’s national reference laboratory confirmed on Monday.
According to a report on "24 Oras", RITM director Dr. Celia Carlos said that most of the infected staff were asymptomatic while under quarantine at the institute’s dormitory.
She said the RITM had to scale down the operations of the institution to make way for disinfection procedures.
The RITM is the country's primary facility for testing samples from patients for possible COVID-19 infection.
The scaled-down operation is expected to slow down the processing of COVID-19 samples at the institution.
The first to contract COVID-19 was an encoder who tested positive last April 4.
“Parang office work ang trabaho niya, so no’ng nagi-investigate kami sa kaniya, parang from the community niya nga na-acquire ‘yung infection tapos nahawaan na lang niya ‘yung ibang tao,” Carlos said in a radio interview.
She said that several employees tested positive for the disease despite being asymptomatic.
Carlos also explained that it is difficult to determine who among the infected staff got the coronavirus from the workplace and who got it from their community.
“Marami pong exposures ‘yung mga na-infect, like there were people who were going to the market after office [or] go with friends outside after office, so medyo hindi po clear-cut kung paano nila na-acquire so wala po kaming conclusion doon,” she said.
The RITM has assigned staff to attend to the infected employees.
Those showing symptoms will be discharged from quarantine after they test negative for COVID-19 twice, while asymptomatic staff will only need to complete the mandatory 14-day isolation.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Sunday that the RITM will temporarily scale down its operations to give way to safety procedures.
The laboratory has tested over 34,000 people so far, according to the health official.—Julia Mari Ornedo/LDF/NB, GMA News