Palace eyes 50,000 COVID-19 daily tests despite failing to meet previous 30,000 goal

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Palace eyes 50,000 COVID-19 daily tests despite failing to meet previous 30,000 goal
Mega Swabbing Center in Philippine Sports Stadium in Sta Maria Bulacan pictured last May 20, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the government is now aiming for a COVID-19 testing capacity of 50,000 per day.

The government thus far has failed to meet its previous target of 30,000 daily tests.

Last week, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency is aiming test around 1.63 million Filipinos — about 1.5% of the population—by end of July. To date, only 558,163 individuals have been tested for coronavirus in the country.

Roque in May tried to claim that the daily testing target of 30,000 had been exceeded but was corrected by the health department which said the actual testing capacity at the time was around 8,500 to 9,500 per day.

Before that, the government had set a goal of 8,000 tests per day by the end of April but failed to meet their deadline. It reached a testing capacity of over 8,000 on May 10.

Roque during Monday's palace briefing announced the arrival of 43,750 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits, equivalent to 1,047,984 tests, in the country.

He also announced 16 bids awarded to the country for 239,857 test kits, equivalent to 8,544,282 tests, and 5 ongoing bids for 15,750 test kits, equivalent to 1,293,750 tests.

There are currently 63 licensed laboratories nationwide, 27 of which are in the National Capital Region.

Still no 'mass testing'

Despite its procurement of test kits equivalent to millions of tests, Malacañang in May resisted calls for mass testing and said it would be "physically impossible" to test everyone in the Philippines.

However, this was a misrepresentation of what those calling for mass testing were actually lobbying for which was the testing of those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, frontline health workers and communities with confirmed cases.

Under the current guidelines, healthcare workers and patients with severe or critical and mild symptoms and the vulnerable populations are prioritized for RT-PCR testing.

Widespread testing is crucial in curbing the spread of the virus around the world as it allows authorities to isolate and treat infected people, even those who may not be exhibiting symptoms but can still act as unknowing spreaders of the disease. 

However, the Department of Health recently said the country’s testing capacity should be measured by its capability to test all those who need it.

“The DOH has been consistent that an adequate testing capacity is not measured by achieving a target number or percentage of the population that could be tested; rather it is being able to make testing accessible to all those who need it,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in his latest report to Congress.

On June 10, Roque told ANC that after 85 days of strict quarantine rules due to the novel coronavirus, the country's testing capacity was still unequal to the task of detecting enough COVID-19 cases.





As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 20, 2021 - 4:10pm

Other regions and provinces in the Philippines considered moderate and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine starting May 1. Bookmark this page for updates. (Main image by The STAR/Edd Gumban)

November 20, 2021 - 4:10pm

The health department registers 1,474 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national caseload to 2,824,499. 

  • New deaths: 205
  • New recoveries: 2,565
  • Total active cases: 22,070
November 19, 2021 - 4:05pm

The Department of Health reports an additional 1,485 COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to to 2,823,210.

  • New deaths: 277
  • New recoveries: 1,393
  • Total active cases: 23,200
November 18, 2021 - 4:26pm

The Department of Health registers 1,297 new COVID-19 cases, biringing the national caseload to 2,821,753.

  • New deaths: 305
  • New recoveries: 1,956
  • Total active cases: 23,158
November 10, 2021 - 4:07pm

The Department of Health registers 2,646 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national tally to 2,809,311.

  • Active cases: 29,138 or 1.0% of the total
  • Deaths: 99, pushing the count to 44,665
  • Recoveries: 4,029 bringing the number to 2,735,508
November 9, 2021 - 4:11pm

The Department of Health logs 1,409 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national tally to 2,806,694.

  • Active cases: 30,544 or 1.1% of the total
  • Deaths: 46, pushing the count to 44,567
  • Recoveries: 2,941 bringing the number to 2,731,583
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