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Coronavirus testing delayed in Calabarzon provinces

The collection of specimens from suspected cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been temporarily suspended in the Calabarzon region — which is composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon — as health authorities look for alternative laboratories after the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) scaled down testing activities because of infected employees.

Forty-three personnel of the RITM have tested positive for COVID-19, affecting the testing capacity of the national reference laboratory. Though health officials have vowed to resume RITM’s full operation at least by the end of the week, the gap could delay the community testing being done in the provinces.

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In Biñan City, for instance, Department of Health (DOH) personnel visited suspected patients quarantined in their homes — but only to check for physical symptoms and their blood oxygen levels.

They said they could not conduct nasopharyngeal swabbing at the moment but promised to return for the procedure once the RITM resumed normal operation.

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Swabbing or inserting pledgets into a patient’s nose or throat is done to collect the specimen, which is then tested through the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine in laboratories.

Since the outbreak, Calabarzon, with 728 confirmed cases as of April 20 and more than 1,000 more suspected to have the disease, has been submitting collected specimens to the RITM.

“[The laboratories are] a problem right now. First, we were told [to redirect the samples] to the [University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health], but we learned [that] they couldn’t accommodate as much. So we’re told [that] another option was The Medical City in Pasig City,” Rene Bagamasbad, Laguna health officer, said on Tuesday.

According to him, health authorities in the province were swabbing as many as 500 people a day.

“I think we’ll have to slow down [the specimen] collection until [the laboratory issue] is clarified. We can’t just take samples as there are conditions. How long can you keep [specimen]? At what temperature? It may just come to naught,” he said.

In Batangas, health officer Rose Ozaeta said her office was working on a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Red Cross to test in its laboratories the specimens taken in the province.

Calabarzon’s health chief, Eduardo Janairo, said the specimens collected in the region could be sent to The Medical City.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: Calabarzon COVID-19 testing, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19
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