According to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, they are looking into 30 laboratories nationwide that have offered to help test suspect cases of COVID-19.
Edd Gumban
30 laboratories offer COVID testing services
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Thirty more private and public laboratories across the country have expressed interest to do testing for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), an official of the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

According to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, they are looking into 30 laboratories nationwide that have offered to help test suspect cases of COVID-19.

She noted the DOH had sent these laboratories a “self-assessment tool” that they need to accomplish for them to know if they have the capacity for testing.  

The official reiterated that testing for COVID-19 involves biosafety risks because the specimens collected from patients may contain a live virus. Because of this, the DOH follows strict standards in accrediting testing facilities. 

“A team went to some of these laboratories to validate their self-assessment… We will know which among them can meet the standards for COVID-19 testing,” she added.  

Aside from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UP-NIH), the other testing laboratories of the DOH are the Southern Philippines Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Medical Center, San Lazaro Hospital and Baguio General Hospital.

Scientist Edsel Maurice Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the  UP-NIH, said yesterday that the laboratory capacity of the country for COVID-19 “continues to increase.”

Salvana posted in his Facebook page that last week, UP-NIH, for instance, was able to do only 300 tests.

“Now we are at over 1,000 tests, with new laboratories, including private ones, set to go online. 

“The approval and (eventual) arrival of the Gene Xpert COVID-19 test will add major capacity to (tests) because it takes shorter (45 minutes) to run and we already have a lot of Xpert machines that we use for tuberculosis. The problem now is that all countries want to get their hands on the cartridges,” he said.

The testing kit being used by UP-NIH was developed by a group of local scientists headed by Raul Destura, deputy executive director of the Philippine Genome Center.

Currently, the testing kit is undergoing field validation by the RITM before they can be used full blast on its own.

“Even if we have 120k test kits and reagents donated, the capacity to process those is still at just over 1,000 tests per day. At that rate, we have enough reagents and kits for at least three months. If more labs go online, we will use those faster,” Salvana added.

COVID-19 DOH TESTING SERVICES
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