PH government to start mass testing suspected COVID-19 cases after Easter

<i>Photo: ABS-CBN News</i>
Photo: ABS-CBN News

At least 20,000 Filipinos suspected of being infected with the novel coronavirus will be tested starting April 14, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer at the National Task Force on COVID-19 said in a briefing yesterday at Quezon City’s Camp Aguinaldo.

The measure was announced after the Research Institute on Tropical Medicine—previously the only COVID-19 testing facility in the Philippines—authorized several hospitals for testing.

Galvez said that the government will add more testing facilities and will “fast-track the accreditation of substantial laboratories”. He added that the Department of Health is capable of testing 1,000 people per day, and they plan to triple it due to the increasing number of patients under investigation and monitoring (PUIs and PUMs).

“We are pushing for the DOH to have that kind of massive testing, at least the rate is, we have at least 2,000 to 3,000 [per day]. For now, I think their capability is only 1,000 and now we have more than 20,000 PUIs and PUMs that need to be tested,” he said.

“[T]hat’s why we conducted a lockdown, social distancing, and also segregation of those vulnerable. The next step is we have to have mass testing of the PUIs and PUMs so that we can isolate and treat those who are infected with the disease.”Galvez added that they plan to convert several large Metro Manila buildings into mass quarantine centers. This includes the World Trade Center and Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, and the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. The government also wants to transform government and privately-owned ships into hospitals.

Read: Philippine Transport Department eyes use of ships as ‘floating quarantine hospitals’

Separately, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) also plans to begin mass testing of symptomatic Quezon City residents next week. The city currently has the most number of cases in the country, with 464 cases as of yesterday afternoon. The PRC urged the city’s residents to call their hotline at 1158 for any COVID-19-related queries, and those who qualify for testing will receive a text message with directions on the process.

Senator Richard Gordon, the PRC’s chairman, said that the non-profit has two machines that can run 3,000 tests a day.

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