Gov’t says it’s up to private sector to conduct mass tests for COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — Admitting to the government’s limited capacity to conduct mass testing, Malacañang on Monday said it will leave it up to the discretion of private businesses to conduct tests for COVID-19.
In a televised Palace briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted the government still has no program in place to carry out mass detection of SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Well, as much as possible po ano, mayroon tayong—ini-increase natin iyong capacity natin ng testing kaya nga we’re aiming na aabot tayo sa 30,000. Pero in terms of mass testing na ginagawa ng Wuhan na all 11 million, wala pa pong ganiyang programa at iniiwan natin sa pribadong sektor,” Roque said.
(Well, as much as possible, we’re increasing our testing capacity. We’re aiming to reach 30,000. But in terms of mass testing like what China is doing in Wuhan, testing all 11 million of its citizens there, we have no such program like that yet and we leave it to the private sector.)
Roque was referring to private companies-organized Project ARK or Antibody Rapid Test Kits, which has produced test kits for the use of barangays as well as for workers looking to return to work.
Project ARK medical team chief Dra. Minguita Padilla said the private sector has also procured additional reverse transmission-polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR kits to be used sparingly with the rapid tests kits.
Earlier, the DOH said PCR-based tests remain the “gold standard” in determining if patients had contracted the novel coronavirus as rapid test kits can produce false-negative results that can lead to the further spread of the virus.
The country so far has 30 laboratories nationwide that are capable of detecting the virus using RT-PCR tests. Meanwhile, five laboratories are accredited to use GeneXpert rapid test kits, which can yield results within 45 minutes.
The government is eyeing to achieve 30,000 daily tests by the end of May—a goal it set after failing to reach its initial target of 8,000 daily tests by the end of April.
Mounting calls for mass testing of suspected coronavirus carriers have prompted government to increase its testing capacity, but the DOH also noted that country also has limited laboratory capacity to process those tests.
To date, there are 12,513 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, including 2,635 recoveries and 824 deaths.
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