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Philippines eyes mass testing of suspected COVID-19 cases starting on April 14

The government is looking to start mass testing persons suspected of having COVID-19 on April 14, the chief implementer of the national action plan against the disease said on Thursday.

Secretary Carlito Galvez made the remark at a briefing in Camp Aguinaldo after the Research Institute on Tropical Medicine accredited several hospitals for COVID-19 testing.

"On the massive testing for PUIs and PUMs, we are also determined to fast-track the accreditation of substantial laboratories so we can start with the mass testing of the PUIs and PUMs," Galvez said.

"We expect that by April 14, we should be able to start massive testing," he added.

Galvez said it was a good sign that the latest number of new cases - 322 - on April 2 was lower than the highest number of new cases in a day -538 -recorded on March 31.

"If you'll see the data, the increase of the new cases has been 322 which is lower than the highest cases that we have last few days ago of 538," Galvez said.

"This is a good sign that we are gaining the battle despite the many tests that we have right now," he added.

Galvez said he was confident there would an increase in recovery in the coming weeks because more than 500 COVID-19 patients were located in the "best hospitals."

Testing centers

Earlier in the day, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced that the Western Visayas Medical Center received certification to conduct COVID-19 tests, bringing the total number of accredited laboratories nationwide to eight.

Over 40 more healthcare facilities and laboratories are currently seeking accreditation from the Department of Health (DOH).

Data from the department as of Thursday afternoon show that 4,726 people have been tested for COVID-19. A total of 1,154 have been classified as persons under investigation and 6,321 others are under monitoring.

A total of 1,275 have tested negative for the respiratory disease.

The country’s COVID-19 testing centers have conducted 15,337 tests, including retests and validation, as of Monday.

The DOH thumbed down calls for widespread testing in March because the government was “not yet ready” due to a lack of resources.

15,000 PPEs delivered

Galvez said 15,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) were delivered to various COVID-19 referral facilities earlier on Thursday.

Duque said the initial batch was distributed to the Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, AFP Medical Center, San Lazaro Hospital, and Philippine General Hospital.

Some 885,000 more sets are expected to arrive between April 6 and 24.

COVID-19 facilities

Galvez said the government would convert several establishments across Metro Manila into mass quarantine facilities within the next 10 days.

Some of the facilities eyed as isolation centers for COVID-19 patients are the Rizal Complex, World Trade Center, Philippine International Convention Center, and Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Other facilities that will be used by COVID-19 patients are the Quezon City Institute, the Philippine Sports Complex, Duty Free Philippines in Parañaque, Amoranto Sports Complex, Quezon City Memorial Complex, and the Veterans Medical Center Complex.

“We will also deploy three doctors and 50 nurses at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex coming from the Armed Forces,” Galvez added.

COVID-19 has so far claimed 107 lives and infected over 2,000 people in the Philippines. -NB, GMA News