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'50,000 daily test capacity exceeded; 16,000 COVID-19 tests conducted per day'

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
'50,000 daily test capacity exceeded; 16,000 COVID-19 tests conducted per day'
Mega Swabbing Center in Philippine Sports Stadium in Sta Maria Bulacan pictured last May 20, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — An official of the National Task Force against COVID-19 on Thursday said that the Philippines has met its daily testing capacity goal of 50,000.

"Our goal of 50,000 testing capacity, our ability to test as of June 30, was exceeded on June 19," NTF Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon said during a Palace briefing.

However, he clarified that the actual number of tests being conducted per day was at 16,000 — less than a third of the projected capacity.

The government previously announced the 50,000 daily testing capacity goal despite the fact that it had yet to demonstrate its previous capacity goal of 30,000 tests per day.

Presidential Harry Roque in May claimed that 32,100 tests were being administered per day — exceeding the then capacity goal of 30,000 — but later went back on this comment saying that he was referring to testing capacity and not actual tests performed.

Data from the health department showed that the government was conducting less than 10,000 tests per day at the time.

To date, the Philippines has yet to conduct 30,000 tests per day, despite the Palace's constant upping of its capacity goals.

As it stands, Dizon says the total number of tests conducted is 612,571.

He added that the government aims to reach a target of one million tests in July.

Last week, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department is aiming test around 1.63 million Filipinos — about 1.5% of the population—by the end of July.

To achieve this goal, the government would have to double the number of tests it has conducted so far in a little over 30 days.

Dizon said the government now aims to test 2% of the population in the coming months.

Mass testing?

He also announced the government's new plan to test — along with medical frontliners — non-medical frontliners and in all jails and mental institutions, and 'hotspot' barangays.

This closely resembles the demands of those who called for mass testing in the country.

Malacañang in May resisted these calls, saying it would be "physically impossible" to test everyone in the Philippines.

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

Under the previous guidelines, healthcare workers and patients with severe or critical and mild symptoms and the vulnerable populations were 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 of this writing, there are 32,295 cases of COVID-19 and a death toll of 1,204 in the Philippines.

COVID-19

MASS TESTING

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

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