Government allots P3.2-B for COVID-19 rapid test kits
MANILA, Philippines — The government has allotted P3.2 billion to buy rapid test kits, the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship said, despite warnings from the Department of Health (DOH) that using these kits might lead to false negatives.
In a statement, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Jose Maria Concepcion III said President Duterte had approved “the order and procurement of rapid test kits, which will be used in containing COVID-19.”
Concepcion identified the “vitally needed test kits from trusted suppliers” as “the antibody tests and the rt-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) kits.”
“For the initial order, two million IgM IgG antibody kits will be purchased at a cost that has yet to be determined, [while] a budget of P3.2 billion will be used for 40,000 rt-PCR kits, good for 900,000 confirmatory tests,” Concepcion said.
In a phone interview, the official said he didn’t know where the rapid test kits would be sourced but they would be paid for by the government and not the private sector.
In a late night speech on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “take the risk” and order the “immediate” purchase of the rapid test kits despite the absence of clearance from the country’s Food and Drug Administration and approval from the Health and Technology and Assessment (HTA) Council.
Section 34 of the Universal Health Care Act states that “investments on any health technology … by the DOH and PhilHealth shall be used on the positive recommendations of the HTA.”
But Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government could bypass this restriction by ordering the Office of Civil Defense to make the purchase “because we are in a state of calamity.”
The DOH maintained on Tuesday that the rapid antibody test kits cannot be used as a “stand-alone test” for confirming COVID-19 cases.
At a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the rapid antibody test kits could produce false positive or false negative results, so it should be coupled with the PCR-based testing method, the “gold standard” in testing for COVID-19.
Vergeire also reminded the public that the rapid test kits are not for self-testing and only licensed doctors should prescribe or interpret their results.
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