DOH expects increase in daily COVID-19 testing capacity

April 1 ------ With the opening of the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) laboratory for COVID-19 testing, the Department of Health (DOH) is expecting an increase in the daily testing capacity. But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the LCP still needs to submit five positive and 10 negative test results to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for validation before it can be accredited as an independent testing center.

Vergeire also said the DOH is processing the COVID-19 testing accreditations of around 46 hospitals that have applied. The Bicol Public Health Laboratory in Region V and the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Region VI are already in the last stages of the process, she added. Data from DOH shows that 15,337 tests have been conducted, including retests and validation by the RITM and six other sub-national laboratories nationwide as of March 30. Of this number, 2,388 tested positive while 11,129 were negative. A total of 1,820 were “equivocal,” or unclear whether they are negative or positive.

Vergeire said the health department delivered test kits that can perform 40,700 tests each to the accredited sub-national laboratories, as well as the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, WVMC, and the Bicol Public Health Laboratory.

Frontline health workers who are experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19 will now be tested following an amendment in the DOH’s policy. Vergeire said health workers sought help from the health department after some institutions turned them away when they asked to be tested for COVID-19. “Nakikiusap kami sa ating health care facilities… Pangalagaan po natin ang health care workers” she said.

“Kasama na po sila sa ating protocol kung sino-sino ang mga pwede nating i-test… Kasama na sila sa ating vulnerable population. Kahit mild lang po ang sintomas ng ating health care workers, kasama na po sila, bigyan po natin sila ng test, kuhaan ng specimens, at ating alagaan,” she added. The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged to 2,084 after the DOH reported 538 new cases on Tuesday. A total of 88 people in the country have died from the disease while 49 patients have recovered.

Vergeire also reported that as of March 30, 348 Filipinos abroad have tested positive for COVID-19. Of this number, 228 are admitted in hospitals, 111 have recovered, and nine have passed away.