Duque apologizes for not giving ‘equal push’ for regional COVID-19 testing labs | Inquirer News

Duque apologizes for not giving ‘equal push’ for regional COVID-19 testing labs

/ 10:56 PM May 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III apologized on Tuesday for not giving regional testing laboratories an “equal push” after a senator warned of a possible rise in COVID-19 death due to the lack of testing centers in several regions.

During the Senate hearing on updates regarding the government’s coronavirus response, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri urged the COVID-19 national task force to “speed up” the accreditation of regional testing centers.

“Mindanao, and many parts of the country, still do not have testing centers,” Zubiri said.


He pointed to a case of a woman who died even before her COVID-19 test result could be released, which later turned out to be positive.


“She was admitted to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center on May 1 and yet she was swabbed May 3. The swab was still sent to Davao City. Two days later she passed away and then a few days after, the test came out and she was positive,” Zubiri said.

“Within that period of time, our fear was we need to contact trace all those that she was with at that particular time. Meaning there was a delay in testing because of the lack of testing centers,” he added.

Zubiri then asked Duque to fast-track the application of several laboratories waiting to be accredited.

“I’ve spoken with a few in other regions and they told me the delay is they’re still waiting for the trainers to come from Manila and it’s taken two weeks before they would come to actually train the people on the ground then certified after by the [World Health Organization] and the DOH,” the senator said.

In response, Duque said: “I agree with you. This is part of our ramping up strategy, but as you very well know, nobody expected that this COVID-19 pandemic was going to happen. And so the planning for this at the early stage was really extremely difficult. We had to concentrate our efforts on the National Capital Region [NCR], which is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.”

“And I would like to apologize that we were not able to really give it [testing laboratories] an equal push as we did for NCR, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not doing anything about this,” he added.


Meanwhile, the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.assured the Senate that it was expediting the accreditation of several regional testing centers.

“We will make sure, the president has told me, that we have to ramp up the accreditation of all the hospitals, laboratories because he knows that areas in Mindanao and also the Visayas are very vulnerable…without testing laboratories,” Galvez said.

Sixty-six laboratories are seen to be accredited by the end of May, NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon also told the Senate.

“Today are at 36 laboratories growing from 20 less than two weeks ago. The plan is to expand that further to 66 laboratories by the end of May,” he said.

“You will notice that the priority will really be the islands in the Visayas — in Panay and in Negros — more in Cebu because there is a big infection prevalence there and also in the Eastern Visayas, and there are also ramps up in Mindanao,” he added.

Earlier in the hearing, Dizon said that the Philippines was planning to test a total of two million Filipinos with a target goal of increasing the country’s testing capacity to 50,000 COVID-19 tests per day by June.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Philippine health officials have so far confirmed nearly 13,000 COVID-19 cases nationwide.

Of the number, 2,843 have recovered while 837 have died from the disease.

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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Senate

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