DOH aiming to eliminate COVID-19 testing backlog by Thursday night
A resident of Brgy. San Miguel in Taguig City undergoes swabbing for coronavirus testing on April 23, 2020.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

DOH aiming to eliminate COVID-19 testing backlog by Thursday night

(Philstar.com) - May 28, 2020 - 2:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — Laboratories across the country are aiming to reduce the testing backlog to zero by the end of the day, the Department of Health said Thursday.

A testing backlog that was at 12,000 two weeks ago has been reduced to 3,683 as of Wednesday, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“We have instructed them (laboratories) to reduce the backlogs in two to three days as ordered by the Office of the President,” Vergeire said.

“We have a target that by tonight, we will be reducing our backlogs to zero,” she added.

Currently, there are 42 laboratories nationwide capable of processing samples. Some 289,721 individuals have been tested as of May 26.

Malacañang on Monday said the country has met its target of national testing capacity of 30,000 per day. DOH, however, said the figure was just an estimate based on the number of machines, human resource and operating hours per laboratory.

Actual number of tests conducted daily ranges between 8,500 and 9,500.

The Philippines reported 380 new cases Wednesday—the biggest single-day increase since April 6. This pushed the nation’s tally to 15,049.

Contact tracing

The Philippines needs more than P11 billion for the hiring of contact tracers to meet the ideal ratio set by the World Health Organization, Vergeire also said Thursday.  

The standard set is one contact tracer for every 800 people. To date, there are only some 38,000 individuals tasked with tracking down the close contacts of patients who have been infected with the coronavirus disease.

To address the gaps, the government needs to hire some 95,000 contact tracers, according to Vergeire.

“We project that we will need about P11.7 billion for contact tracers in three months,” Vergeire said.

The agency is already working with the Department of the Interior and Local Government on hiring more contact tracers, the health official added.

“We are expecting that DILG will be the ones to manage this so the local government units will hire, train, and deploy the contact tracers,” she said.

Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO acting representative to the Philippines, earlier said that the government’s slow contact tracing efforts were hampering the country’s battle against COVID-19.

“We need to push harder and we really need to work harder,” she added, urging the government to double down on its efforts with the looming end of modified enhanced community quarantine at the end of May,” she said Monday. — Gaea Katreena Cabico


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