Task force sees start of mass COVID-19 testing by April 14
Health workers of St. Jude Family Hospital in Los Baños, Laguna receive on March 25, 2020 donated personal protective equipment from different business sectors in the province.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos
Task force sees start of mass COVID-19 testing by April 14
(Philstar.com) - April 2, 2020 - 8:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Task Force on COVID-19 sees mass testing for the novel coronavirus disease to start by April 14, presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday.

In a press briefing on the developments in the country's efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, Galvez said that there are now nine accredited hospitals that can conduct the tests.

He added that the task force has asked the Department of Health to expedite the accreditation of more hopsitals to boost testing capability. 

"On massive testing for [Patients Under Investigation] and [Patients Under Monitoring], we are also determined to fast track the accreditation of substantial laboratories so we can start the massive testing," he also said.

"We expect that by April 14, we shall be able to start massive testing," Galvez, who is chief implementer of the National Action Plan on COVID-19, said.

Luzon has been on an enhanced community quarantine—a measure that includes curfews and the suspension of mass transportation—since March 17. The quarantine is set to lapse on April 12, but the policy-making Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has said a subpanel is studying whether to extend and expand it.

RELATED: Lockdown must be extended for months to prevent Italy-like scenario, data scientist says

A lack of test kits and accredited laboratories has hampered the country's ability to detect COVID-19 cases, with some dying before test results came back from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the main laboratory for those tests.

On March 25, the Department of Health said that mass testing was still not an option.

"While we already have 100,000 testing kits, we expect more to arrive, these are not enough to conduct mass testing," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said then in a televised press briefing.

"For now, mass testing is not on in our consideration because we lack capacity. Even if we have testing kits but we do not have laboratories, we cannot do it. So we are completing the establishment of extension laboratories nationwide," she added.

PPEs distributed, more arriving

In the same briefing, Galvez said that the first batch of 15,000 pieces of Personal Protective Equipment from China have been distributed to the following hospitals, which are the frontline government hospitals dealing with COVID-19 caseS:

  • Philippine General Hospital in Manila
  • Dr. Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan
  • Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City
  • East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City 
  • Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center in Quezon City

The remainder of the PPEs, purchased on a government-to-government basis are to arrive from April 6-24.

He said that private sector donors will also be sending PPEs, with the Department of Health identifying hospitals that are most in need.

Galvez said they have created Viber group among hospitals for better coordination.

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