Visayas execs ask: Where to get coronavirus test kits?
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — The ban on land, sea and air travel between Metro Manila and the provinces has created another problem in dealing with suspected cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Provinces in the Visayas, like Negros Occidental, raised concern not only on how to test their suspected COVID-19 patients but how to get these test results to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Metro Manila since commercial land, sea and air travels between the provinces and the capital region have been halted.
The governments of Cebu province and Cebu City, on the other hand, have funds to buy test kits and conduct local testing because there is a state-run hospital in Cebu City capable of administering the test. Local officials, however, do not know where to find these test kits.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said the Philippine Air Force had agreed to schedule medical flight runs between Iloilo and Metro Manila every Tuesday and Friday.
But there was no other way to get the swabs for suspected COVID-19 cases to RITM on time, he said.
“We can’t send our specimens to RITM, hence no swab testing is being done,” Lacson said.
This was affirmed by Dr. Julius Drilon, head of the government-run Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City, who said that throat and nose swab specimens they sent through Universal Transport Mediums to RITM needed to get there in 72 hours. The unavailability of flights, he said, has put the shipment on hold.
Drilon said he was told that the country had five testing machines for suspected COVID-19 specimens but only one was functional, leading to the delay in the release of results due to the volume coming from different provinces.
“Before, it took three days to release results. Now, it is up to five,” he said.
Officials of the Cebu provincial and city governments said they wanted to buy their own test kits since the 500 kits promised by the Department of Health (DOH) for Central Visayas had not arrived.
According to Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, the provincial government has funds to buy these kits but it has yet to find a supplier approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).“The province is willing to spend to purchase these test kits. There is a supplier but we need to review [the] papers if they are approved in its country of origin and if [the kits] will also fit the standards and approval of the FDA here in the Philippines,” she said.
“Test kits are the most important thing for us to be able to test our residents,” Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said, noting that the city remained free from COVID-19 despite the death of a person under investigation (PUI) at a private hospital here on Sunday. The 27-year-old female PUI died while waiting for the result of her swab test from the RITM.
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