DOH mulls prioritizing health workers, seniors, immunocompromised in RT-PCR testing
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is considering giving priority to healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals in RT-PCR COVID-19 testing amid the increased demand for coronavirus tests.
According to DOH Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire, the country has reached the point “where the value of testing is for clinical management,” unlike in the early phase of the pandemic where the primary purpose of testing is for the surveillance of positive cases.
“That’s why we are shifting our policy. Pinag-uusapan na po with our experts that we should be able to prioritize our testing. Ang testing dapat, clinical management, i-prioritize natin ‘yung mga vulnerable natin: senior citizens, those with comorbidities, immunocompromised, our healthcare workers,” Vergeire said in an interview with The Chiefs on Monday night.
(That’s why we are shifting our policy. We are discussing with our experts that we should prioritize our testing. The test should be for clinical management and prioritize the vulnerable population: the senior citizens, immunocompromised, and healthcare workers.)
“Aside from that, if it’s for the community, we use antigen tests, especially if they are symptomatic or they are close contacts, we can use antigen. So ito po ‘yung plano natin (this is our plan), for us to do shifts in policy because ganito na po ‘yung stage ng transmissions sa ating bansa (this is already the stage of transmissions in our country),” she added.
Vergeire assured that the country has sufficient stock for testing kits for now, but the problem is the sudden increase in demand for tests which overwhelms the system. She noted that laboratory personnel are also getting infected with COVID-19.
Because of the increased demand, some people, especially the vulnerable, cannot access testing and the release of results also gets delayed, according to the health official.
“So how do we now try to address this problem? Eh magpaprioritize muna po tayo hanggang sa umayos po ulit ang sistema, and that is what we are thinking of. Pinag-uusapan, wala pa pong approval, but this would be one of the directions. Kung saka-sakaling maaprubahan tayo, this will be done,” she said.
(So how do we now try to address this problem? We should prioritize some people in testing until the system becomes normal again, and this is what we are thinking of. This is still being discussed, there is no approval yet, but this would be one of our directions. If this gets approved, this will be done.)
“Hindi natin lilimitahan ang tests for our community. We will have the antigen tests sa ating komunidad,” Vergeire also said.
(We will not limit testing for our community. We will still have the antigen tests for the community.)
The DOH reported on Monday a positivity rate of 46 percent out of over 73,000 individuals who got tested for COVID-19 on Saturday, far from the five percent positivity rate recommended by the World Health Organization.
The country logged 33,169 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the highest since the start of the pandemic, raising the number of active infections to 157,526.
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