The Philippines’ average number of COVID-19 tests conducted per day stands at 8,000 to 9,000 due to recent damage to laboratories hit by Typhoon Ambo and shortage of laboratory supplies, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said.
Vergeire issued the clarification since the National Task Force has set a maximum capacity of conducting 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of May—a figure which is far from the current figures from 8,000 to 9,000 per day.
“We already reached our maximum capacity [of conducting 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day] dati pa with the expansion of our laboratories in terms of number of laboratories na nilisensiyahan na natin, but that maximum capacity does not factor in operational issues of the laboratories,” Vergeire said.
“We are averaging 8,000 to 9,000 per day. Bumabangon pa lang tayo because of operational issues encountered in the past katulad nung nasira ang Bicol laboratory at UP NIH (National Institute of Health). Nasira rin iyong exhaust ng Western Visayas laboratory, at 'yung Lung Center [of the Philippines], noong Monday lang rin sila nakapag-test ulit,” Vergeire added.
Vergeire then said that supplies of personal protective equipment for accredited laboratories do not come easy due to global shortage brought about by the pandemic.
“Iyong supplies [po ng laboratories], erratic rin po. Kailangan po ma re-distribute from time to time. ‘Yung requirement na lang po na face mask na N95, from 3M po dapat. May mga papasok po sa darating na araw, sa tulong na rin po ng private sector, para po ma-ramp up natin ang ating testing,” Vergeire pointed out.
“The actual number of tests, which is 8,000 to 9,000, is what we can do for now. Pero meron po tayong maximum capacity na 30,000 per day, sans any obstacles involving operational issues. The limited supply of laboratory supplies is the major limiting factor of our laboratories,” Vergeire added.
Under DOH protocol, those with COVID-19 symptoms and those with exposure to COVID-19 patients must undergo COVID-19 test using Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction test.
The Philippines has recorded 18,638 COVID-19 cases thus far. Of this number, 3,979 recovered while 960 have died.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Luzon and other highly urbanized cities under enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to May 15, then modified enhanced community quarantine for Metro Manila and high-risk areas from May 16 to 31. These measures banned mass gathering and mass transport to prevent COVID-19 transmission. The quarantines resulted in work stoppages in many industries.
Quarantine rules have been eased since June 1 allowing more businesses to operate and public transportation to resume at a limited capacity due to the Department of Health's declaration that the case doubling time of COVID-19 cases has taken longer at six to seven days from the previous two to four days. —KG, GMA News