Davao City approves rapid coronavirus tests
DAVAO CITY—The local government of Davao City has approved the use of rapid antibody test kits to supplement existing screening procedures for persons suspected of COVID-19 infection.
Mayor Sara Duterte said on Monday (May 4) that rapid test kits were already being used especially as stranded residents had started arriving in the city through special trips and sweeper flights.
“I can confirm that we have used rapid test kits for the passengers who arrived today,” Duterte said.
The mayor was referring to a sweeper flight from Clark that ferried 150 stranded passengers on Monday.
Duterte, however, explained that the decision was made despite the apprehension of local health experts on the reliability of rapid tests.
“It is not as reliable but at least it is a supplementary step in the screening process aside from checking symptoms,” Duterte said.
Real-time polymerase chain reaction test, which directly detects the presence of the virus’ RNA, is still the preferred method by health experts and health care professionals in the region, Duterte said.
In contrast to the PCR test, the rapid antibody test detects the presence of the body’s immune response and could detect past and present infection.
The rapid test kits being used for returning residents were part of the 3,000 rapid test kits donated to the local government by Rep. Paolo Duterte, the mayor’s brother.
The mayor said the local government planned to procure more rapid test kits to be used by health workers in the city.
She clarified, though, that results from the rapid tests would still be subjected to confirmation tests using the RT-PCR.
Duterte also said the local government had requested the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for funds to procure an additional 5,000 RT-PCR test kits to increase the testing capacity of the city.
Currently, only the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City has a lab that can independently process RT-PCR specimens in Mindanao.
As a subnational laboratory, SPMC processes specimens not only from Davao region but also from other medical facilities in Mindanao.
Recently, SPMC was able to increase its capacity from 60 specimens per day to 100-120 swab samples each day, Duterte said.
“It is still far from 2,000-3,000 specimens per day but hopefully we will get there with the labs that are preparing to open,” Duterte added.
She said a private lab recently completed the training of its staff in Manila and would soon return to Davao to launch its operation for coronavirus testing while a private hospital had also been working to meet the requirements for accreditation as a testing facility.
Duterte also said the local government had been refurbishing its district health centers to be transformed into local laboratories to make testing more accessible to residents.
The Department of Health reported on Sunday a total of 125 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city, with at least 19 deaths.
Edited by TSB
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