Duterte orders more RT-PCR tests
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the Department of Health (DOH) should allot more funds to increasing the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity, particularly the conduct of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
In his TV address late Monday night, he said there was “universal complaint” in the National Capital Region and nearby areas about the lack of facilities conducting such tests.
“We also need to increase the RT-PCR testing capacity in NCR Plus areas so as to handle the influx of tests and to ensure that laboratories are operational seven days a week,” Duterte said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in that briefing that his agency is expanding its capacity to make testing available in every province with the help of the private sector.
He said there were so far 312 laboratories nationwide doing RT-PCR tests.
Asked by the President if there was a need to buy more equipment, Duque said P7 billion had been allotted for that expenditure under the current budget.
The government has an ideal daily target of 50,000 tests.
But in his press briefing on Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government would continue to conduct targeted testing, as opposed to mass testing which some groups and politicians have called for.
“What we’re doing is responsible testing, because we have to be mindful that the resources of the government are not unlimited and we have to be smart in where we will put our resources,” said Nograles, the acting presidential spokesperson.
He said the DOH has always advocated a risk-based approach, which means only those with symptoms or exposure are tested.
Covered by PhilHealth
Speaking also at Tuesday’s briefing, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega shared Nograles’ view that testing too many people including those who have no symptoms or exposure would be impractical and a waste of resources.
Nograles said RT-PCR tests would remain free and covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) if the person tested is symptomatic.
He also disclosed that among the agenda on Thursday’s meeting by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is the possibility of extending the PhilHealth package to cover testing and other benefits for those under home quarantine.
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