Testing capacity for COVID-19 still 'not enough' — Palace

Testing capacity for COVID-19 still 'not enough' â Palace
A resident of Brgy. San Miguel in Taguig City undergoes swabbing for coronavirus testing on April 23, 2020.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — After 85 days of strict quarantine rules due to the novel coronavirus, the Philippines' capacity to test for the new pathogen is still unequal to the task of detecting enough COVID-19 cases, the Palace said.

Speaking in an interview with ANC on Wednesday morning, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the national government is looking at bolstering the number of tests the country's healthcare system could process each day. 

“We’re still aggressively pursuing the establishment of more laboratories because we don’t have enough,” Roque said.

Roque had previously said that the country had already exceeded its target testing capacity of 30,000 a day, a figure that the Department of Health clarified does not reflect the number of tests actually performed daily.

RELATED: Palace: Don't say 'mass testing', we can't test everybody

"You know, it’s not just the (laboratories’) capacity. It’s the actual testing that (is) being done so we need to improve not just the capacity but also to make sure that they all have (supplies) so that they can maximize their capacities," Roque said Wednesday.

Widespread testing is crucial in curbing the spread of the virus around the world as it allows authorities to isolate and treat infected people, though various government officials have highlighted the role of public "discipline" and "cooperation" in dealing with the disease.

The government's rejection of the term "mass testing"—with Roque himself once claiming incorrectly that it means testing everyone—has contributed to public outcry over the national government's response to the global pandemic after over two months of quarantine. 

READ: Government banks on 'discipline' as likely shift to GCQ nears

Although physical distancing and restricted movement of citizens do keep the disease from spreading, experts from the University of Santo Tomas have said a projected rise in cases as quarantine restrictions are loosened "can be offset with a rigorous tracking, testing, and tracing program that seeks to limit community spread by breaking chains of viral transmission." 

Even the World Health Organization has pointed out the "slow" contact tracing efforts—which are led by the national police—in the country. 

According to President Rodrigo Duterte's weekly report to Congress released on Monday, 140 additional laboratories are being evaluated to serve as COVID-19 testing facilities, while the implementing task force against COVID-19 has said that testing capacity would be raised to 50,000 tests per day by June's end.

As of this writing, 22,992 have been sickened with the virus in the country, according to the health department's latest tally on Tuesday. — Franco Luna with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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