UPLB to open subnational testing lab for COVID-19
SAN PEDRO CITY — The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has offered to convert its existing research laboratories to become a subnational testing center for the coronavirus.
Among the university’s options are laboratories housed at the Institute of Plant Breeding or the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), with facilities both located right outside the academic campus.
Once functional, UPLB’s testing hub could be the first in Southern Luzon to complement the national government’s efforts to mass test thousands of suspected virus carriers.
“These are existing biosafety level-2 labs but used for (other) researches. We will have to retrofit them, by adding negative pressure (systems), air curtain, air conditioning, to make them perfectly (suitable) for coronavirus (testing),” said vice chancellor for research and extension Dr. Rex Demafelis, on Sunday.
Demafelis said UPLB scientists are working closely with the Philippine Red Cross in preparing the facilities.
Red Cross has donated an automatic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine, on top of UPLB’s five existing PCRs, to ramp up the current national daily testing capacity of 1,200.
Demafelis said at least 12 UPLB molecular and microbiology experts have completed the training on the coronavirus, which has so far infected over 3,000 and killed more than a hundred in the Philippines.
In Cavite province, Gov. Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla said they are preparing to launch the mass testing of more than 900 persons under investigation (PUI) for coronavirus after the Holy Week.
Remulla said Cavite has acquired a PCR machine, along with 20,000 testing kits, as donation from Chinese company Sansure Biotech Inc.
Cavite will use De La Salle University’s laboratory as a testing center in Dasmariñas City, pending the biohazard safety certification from the Department of Health and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Provincial health officer Nelson Soriano said Cavite, with a population of over three million, may run an average of 300 tests daily.
Remulla also directed the cities of Bacoor, Imus, and Dasmariñas to convert its hotels into a PUI “holding area,” while the small municipalities to put up tents as patients’ isolation facilities.
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