DOH: 74 more COVID-19 testing labs to open soon
MANILA, Philippines — Another 74 laboratories may soon be ready to process tests for the coronavirus disease 2019 in the coming weeks, in addition to the 99 currently licensed testing laboratories across the country.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday that these additional laboratories are already on the stages 3 and 4 of accreditation and comprise 85 percent of those applying for a license to process COVID-19 tests.
“So if we look at that, there would be additional 74 laboratories in the coming weeks that will be licensed to add more to these 99 licensed laboratories that we already have in the country,” she said in an online forum.
Of the accredited laboratories, 70 are located in Metro Manila, 30 in the rest of Luzon, 16 in the Visayas, and 13 in Mindanao.
According to Vergeire, all regions in the country except Caraga already have their own licensed testing lab. She said the laboratories in Caraga are already at stage 4 in the application for accreditation.
“We are just waiting for them to finish the process so that they can have a licensed laboratory as well,” the official added.
There are five stages for the licensing of COVID-19 testing laboratories: stage 1 is for self-assessment and application, stage 2 is for assessment from the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, stage 3 is for compliance to requirements, stage 4 is for proficiency testing, and stage 5 is for full-scale implementation.
Aside from the 74 testing labs, there are now eight laboratories under stage 1, and five under stage 2.
Once all these labs are approved, the country will have a total of 186 accredited testing laboratories for the disease, according to the data presented by Vergeire during the forum.
The data also showed that since the pandemic began, the country has already conducted a total of 1,616,738 tests as of August 3, with a current average daily output of 28,938 tests. The positivity rate among tested individuals is 9.6 percent.
Vergeire noted that the increase in testing capacity was an improvement from the 300 average tests that the RITM can conduct in February. The RITM was the solely accredited testing lab in the first days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines.
The total COVID-19 caseload so far in the country rose to 112,593, with additional 6,352 cases reported on Tuesday. A total of 66,049 have recovered, while the detail toll is marked at 2,115.
In a television interview, Vergeire also announced that health personnel and workers of local government units will go house-to-house in select barangays to identify individuals who are showing symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“Different officials will be going down together with the local health officials so that we will be able to identify symptomatic in the barangays, in the communities and we will be able to isolate, we will be able to test,” she added.
Vergeire said that the program will be launched first in Metro Manila and in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) in the next two weeks during the duration of the modified enhanced community quarantine. Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal were placed under MECQ from August 4 to 18 following the appeal of health frontliners for a “timeout” amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
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