‘Test kits from China at par with WHO’

Mayen Jaymalin, Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
�Test kits from China at par with WHO�
The DOH said the 2,000 BGI-RT-PCR test kits and the 100,000 Sansure RT-PCR test kits donated by the Chinese government have been assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and found to be at par with the test kits donated by the WHO after parallel testing was conducted.
STAR / Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday clarified that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) test kits donated to the country by China are “at par” with those from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The DOH said the 2,000 BGI-RT-PCR test kits  and the 100,000 Sansure RT-PCR test kits donated by the Chinese government have been assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and found to be at par with the test kits donated by the WHO after parallel testing was conducted.

“Sansure test kits contain all required reagents to run the test successfully. This means that no other reagents will need to be separately procured by the Philippine government to use the test kits,” the DOH said in a statement.

It added that the test kits with 40 percent accuracy, as mentioned in the press briefing, referred to another test kit proposed to be donated by a private foundation.

It was agreed that BGI and Sansure RT-PCR tests kits will be used to minimize the need to validate the test to be done, according to the agency.

The DOH apologized for the confusion that previously issued statements have caused.

‘Compliant with standards’

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) yesterday also assured the public that the coronavirus testing kits used in hospitals around the country are compliant with the standards set by the WHO and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

IATF spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said all testing kits – whether given by members of the international community or donated by charitable groups and individuals – are vetted by the RITM.

Nograles added that these include the 2,000 BGI RT-PCR test kits initially donated by the Chinese government.

“The government is making sure that all test kits being used in our hospitals are reliable. We want to assure everyone that we will only use kits that we have properly reviewed and determined to be accurate and dependable,” he said in a statement.

The government is grateful for the generosity displayed by those who have donated testing kits and other medical supplies, according to the Cabinet secretary.

Aside from China, the governments of Brunei, South Korea and Singapore have also provided testing kits to the Philippines. The Philippine government has also received donations from private groups like the Udenna Foundation from South Korea.

“It would be helpful moving forward if groups or organizations that plan to donate testing kits to the country secure the types of kits that have already been approved by the Department of Health,” Nograles said.

“This way, these testing kits can be deployed faster, as opposed to different types of kits that may have to be thoroughly evaluated before they can be used,” he added.


The COVID-19 test kits that the DOH had earlier said were “inaccurate” were not part of the donation of the Chinese government to the Philippines, according to the Chinese embassy in Manila.

In a statement, the embassy said it immediately checked with the DOH after Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Saturday that some COVID-19 test kits sent by China were only “40-percent accurate” based on standards of the WHO.

“Those test kits are of high quality and standards and have no accuracy problems, which are being used in Philippine test laboratories and have helped accelerate the testing process,” the embassy said.

It added that the test kits mentioned by Vergeire were “neither tested by the RITM which did not receive any kit sample for lab validation nor donated by the Chinese government.”

The embassy rejected any irresponsible remarks and any attempts to undermine cooperation with the Philippines.

“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, China has continually provided assistance as needed to support the Philippines’ battle against the epidemic. At this moment of crisis, we should fight in solidarity to overcome the epidemic at the earliest date,” the embassy said.

40,000 kits, 2 ventilators from Singapore

Meanwhile, Singapore donated additional 40,000 COVID-19 diagnostic test kits and two ventilators to allow more people to have an early diagnosis and help severe coronavirus cases.

Last Saturday, Singapore Ambassador Gerard Ho turned over to the government represented by presidential assistant for foreign affairs Chief of Presidential Protocol Robert Borje at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) the donation from the Temasek Foundation.

“These additional test kits will supplement Singapore’s earlier donation,” the embassy said. “Singapore will continue to work on ways in which we can contribute to the Philippines’ effort to contain and defeat COVID-19.”

Singapore had earlier donated 3,000 COVID-19 test kits and one Polymerase Chain Reaction Machine to the Philippines.

The test kits, kept at a specific temperature, arrived at the NAIA last Tuesday and have been transported to the receiving lab.

Singapore has developed several digital tools to deal with the COVID-19 situation, and the country stands ready to share them with the Philippines.

Immediate release of funds

Senators yesterday urged Malacañang to immediately release funds for the procurement of critical medical supplies, and prodded the DOH to speed up the accreditation of test kits and facilities that can use them and house COVID-19 patients.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act allows President Duterte to tap funds for the emergency procurement of test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) for use of hospitals and frontline workers.

“We must immediately procure PPE and other supplies because many of our hospitals are now asking for donations. It weakens the morale of our nurses and doctors to see their hospitals lacking basic requirements, so it’s important that the President exercise his authority under the Bayanihan Act,” Gatchalian said.

He also urged local government units to set up makeshift hospitals and isolation tents where patients with mild symptoms can be isolated to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

The senator proposed to have these temporary facilities set up in wide, well-ventilated and covered spaces like gymnasiums, where tents can serve as isolation areas for persons under investigation and those who are recovering from the disease.

He said schools, dormitories and hotels can also be utilized as isolation areas.

Gatchalian warned that hospitals are now overwhelmed with the spike in COVID-19 cases, straining medical facilities and triggering some to turn away patients.

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