Gov’t developing more labs to test patients for coronavirus disease
MANILA, Philippines — The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is developing more laboratories that can conduct tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as the number of patients under investigation (PUIs) in the country breached the 400 mark on Wednesday.
Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the Department of Health has four subnational reference laboratories that can also be used to test patients for the new coronavirus strain. These are located at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, and the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
“RITM is trying to develop… subnational reference labs. RITM is working on that, the training and efficiency just to check [the laboratories’ capacity],” he said in a press briefing.
Aside from these laboratories, Domingo said some private hospitals have also expressed intention to help the DOH in testing patients suspected of having contracted the virus.
He said the DOH is just waiting for these hospitals, which claimed to have trained personnel and capabilities for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, to apply for accreditation.
Currently, only the RITM is capable of testing PUIs to confirm if they are infected with the virus.
The World Health Organization on Tuesday delivered to RITM reagents that can be used to test 1,500 patients. Domingo said this can last for up to two or three weeks. WHO earlier announced it is looking at delivering reagents that can be used to examine 3,000 more individuals.
Meanwhile, the health official also assured that the DOH is prepared in case local transmission of the virus happens here in the country.
“We always have that at the back of our minds, that it will happen, that it can happen, that’s why we are preparing our hospitals,” he said.
Local transmission outside mainland China has been reported in Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Vietnam, South Korea, and Australia.
Domingo likewise noted that strategies of health agencies change once the local transmission is recorded in its respective countries.
For now, the DOH is focusing on containment, according to Domingo, after three Chinese nationals tested positive for the virus here in the country. Fifty-nine individuals who have had close contact with them during their stay here have begun to show mild symptoms of infection.
Domingo also assured that there is still a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment for local health workers as well as face masks.
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