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Now Reading: TESTING CAPACITY | Philippines steps up virus screening as lockdown continues until April 30
TESTING CAPACITY | Philippines steps up virus screening as lockdown continues until April 30
April 8, 2020 , 03:27 PM

By Manny Mogato, News5 editor at large

(April 8, 2020) – The Philippines planned to screen 10,000 people daily by the end of April to determine the extent of the coronavirus infection in the resources-starved Southeast Asian country, as the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine period was extended as cases and deaths related to the highly contagious respiratory disease steadily rises.

Retired general Carlito Galvez, the government’s chief implementor of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response, said the various molecular laboratories processing virus samples would be capable of turning out daily results of up to 10,000 within the next three months. 

Galvez, a former armed forces chief who commanded troops in the five-month battle in Marawi City against pro-Islamic State militants in 2017, said they target to distribute 900,000 testing kits to conduct mass testing of people at-risk of infection—including health workers, soldiers, police officers, and other people in the frontlines of the war against the pandemic.

In the next three weeks, Galvez said the national task force will continue to closely monitor the status of referral hospitals, testing laboratories, and quarantine facilities in the capital region and nearby regions in preparation for the planned mass testing.

However, the national task force has not announced how many people will be screened to get a complete picture of the extent of the infection. Earlier, the World Health Organization projected about 75,000 people will be infected in the Philippines in the next five weeks by the first week of May.

There were independent studies made by scientists and mathematicians from the University of the Philippines which showed as many as 250,000 people can be infected by the virus, which originated from Wuhan in central China.

During a visit at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the government’s main laboratory for testing coronavirus, Galvez learned about the need for proper storage of COVID-19 testing kits as well as inadequate manpower and limited logistic capability.

“We will find a solution to the storage problem,” he promised RITM officials. “Let us tap the private sector. For the additional manpower, let’s do it under emergency hiring. Focus on testing and we’ll take care of the logistics.”  

As the Department of Health (DOH) ramps up its mass testing of persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs), the national task force promised to make sure the quarantine facilities designed to decongest hospitals are fully equipped and ready to receive patients.

Four large facilities will be ready by next week to house persons suspected to have been infected or those who are categorized as PUIs and PUMs: the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, the World Trade Center, and Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

Two private hospitals, the St Luke’s Medical Center and the Medical City, have been allowed to conduct coronavirus testing augmenting the capacity of RITM and seven other public hospitals across the country to screen people at risk of infection.

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