At least 40 staff members at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the primary government lab that runs coronavirus tests, were found to have been infected with COVID-19, its director announced yesterday.
An encoder working at the RITM was the first to test positive for the virus, and his colleagues were infected. However, RITM’s management hasn’t discounted the possibility that the other staff members could have been infected through other means.
“She’s working at the office and when we investigated, we learned that she acquired it from her community. She infected her colleagues,” RITM director Dr. Celia Carlos told television show 24 Oras.
“Those infected could have been exposed through other ways, like there were people who were going to the market after [working at the] office [or they] go [and meet] with friends outside after office, so it’s not clear-cut how they were able to acquire it and we don’t have a conclusion yet,” Carlos said, who added that most of those who were sick were asymptomatic and quarantined at the RITM’s dormitory.
In a separate interview with CNN Philippines, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it is unclear if most of the infected staff were working at the laboratory or at RITM’s hospital. They have scaled down their operations since April 18 to decontaminate their facilities.
“Since Saturday, they’ve started scaling down processes and it’s going to last until Friday because we’re trying to decontaminate and we have yet to receive the report because as of yesterday they were still trying to do the contact tracing and the investigation. This coming Saturday they would be fully functional again,” Vergeire said.
Meanwhile, some testing samples that could not be processed at the RITM were sent to other accredited laboratories. RITM accepts samples from Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Pasay City.