Duque: âVIPsâ directly requested to get tested for COVID-19
Market-goers at Barangay Quirino 3A in Project 3, Quezon City observe social distancing on March 22, 2020. The Health Department reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the total number of cases in the Philippines to 380 as of March 22, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Duque: ‘VIPs’ directly requested to get tested for COVID-19

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - March 24, 2020 - 9:21am

MANILA, Philippines — Some politicians directly asked the country’s lone diagnostic lab for the new coronavirus to run tests to determine if they contracted the dreaded disease, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday.

This, amid simmering public anger over the reported special treatment given to some of the country’s prominent personalities despite limited number of test kits and as some patients under observation die without seeing their test results.

“There were direct request made to the RITM by the ‘VIP’. I have no details of each one of them that had requested for testing,” Duque told CNN Philippines, referring to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Senators, local officials and other public servants received backlash after they reportedly used their positions to get tested despite not showing any symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — a strict qualification that other patients have to follow.

In the same television interview on Tuesday, Duque said the “VIPs” got tested after they qualified in the initial set of criteria imposed by the Health department, which allowed testing even for those with no symptoms of the infection. The testing protocols were later tightened so that only those manifesting symptoms will be accommodated, he explained.

Duque also said he was told that the RITM had to pause testing “for a while” to prevent an “epidemic” in laboratories amid the dramatic surge in number of patients, resulting in the delayed release of test results.

 “The actual underlying issue is the lack of testing. But that issue should be over precisely because we have 100,000 new test kits that have arrived last Saturday,” Duque said.

The government earlier announced it is set to open five new testing centers across the archipelago this week to accelerate COVID-19 diagnosis.

As of Monday afternoon, the Department of Health reported 82 new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, the highest daily jump for the country so far, which brought the national tally to 462. Of those, 33 died due to infection complications while 18 recovered.

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