DOH sets aside inaccurate donated test kits, assures public only quality tests are used

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
DOH sets aside inaccurate donated test kits, assures public only quality tests are used
Photo shows a lady riding a foot scooter along Kamias road in Quezon City and wearing a placard calling for free mass testing in the Philippines for COVID-19.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — According to standards set by the World Health Organization, the supposedly high tech test kits donated by Beijing are only 40-percent accurate in detecting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Health Department said Saturday night. 

As of this writing, the nationwide total of COVID-19 patients stands at a high of 1,075 patients after the Health Department recorded the country's biggest single-day spike in confirmed cases as 272 more were confirmed on Saturday.

One silver lining the department pointed out was that other testing kits donated by other countries passed WHO's standards. 

"Among the first test kits donated to us by China that only showed 40% accuracy, we did not use them because the accuracy rate was low. That's why we only opted to store them away," Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire Vergeire said in Filipino in an online press briefing Saturday night. 

"Our countrymen can be sure that we are still validating our donated test kits before they are used. We'll see here which test kit is of quality and which is of low quality and should not be used by our countrymen."

Testing woes 

Countries like Spain have also done away with test kits donated by China due to "substandard quality," reports by Reuters said, as these failed to correctly diagnose people in hospitals.

In defense of their product, Shenzhen Bioeasy—the group supplying the kits to Spain—said, "The hospital may not have used the kits in accordance with our operating instructions strictly when taking nasopharyngeal samples, resulting in a decline in accuracy of sample detection."

Closer to home, the lack of testing kits along with the apprehension towards mass testing has only worsened the uncertainty of many over the outbreak as earlier data from the Department of Health showed that the Philippines has significantly lagged behind its counterparts, with only one in every 100,000 Filipinos being tested for the virus, a number the department said was expected to be lifted in the coming weeks.

As many groups have called for mass testing, officials from the Philippine General Hospital, which has allocated one building as a COVID-19 exclusive center, have said that early screening could make all the difference in flattening the curve of the spread of the virus. 

READ: Early screening can quell COVID-19 spread — PGH 

"The high-tech fast test kits, developed by China BGI Group, have a capability to issue results in three hours," the Chinese Embassy in Manilla said in a series of tweets issued as the first batch of 2,000 kits arrived in Manila. 

Unverified products 

The Food and Drug administration has also voiced out concern about using unapproved and unregistered testing kits.

"We cannot vouch for its safety and efficacy by merely accepting the stated claims of a testing kit without the proper regulatory certification from the country of origin and a reliable NRA," FDA director general Eric Domingo said of unregistered kits.

"These kits may give false positive and false negative results which may affect the response to this pandemic," he added.

"They may also be counterfeit products that will not test for the novel coronavirus at all." 

READ: FDA: No COVID-19 kits approved for commercial release yet

Another chemical safety watchdog also warned consumers against unverified alcohol and hand sanitizer products.

Amid much fake news on surefire ways to supposedly shield oneself from possible transmission, one practice that all groups including the WHO stand behind is consistend hand hygiene. 

"Using these unverified products, the safety and efficacy of which is questionable, may give consumers a false sense of security in the time of coronavirus," Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner at the EcoWaste Coalition said.

READ: Buy only registered rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer, watchdog says

The United Nations has warned the international community that the "whole of humanity" was put at risk by the novel coronavirus, saying millions could day if collective action was not taken. — with reports from Ratziel San Juan and Gaea Katreena Cabico

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