DOH asks Palace to regulate COVID-19 swab test prices

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DOH asks Palace to regulate COVID-19 swab test prices
A health worker at Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital prepares to take a swab of a resident of Batasan Hills in Quezon City on July 13, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health said Monday it has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to set a price ceiling for coronavirus swab tests in private hospitals and laboratories.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department has recommended the issuance of an executive order to reconcile the varying prices of polymerase chain reaction tests, which can go as high as P12,000.

“We see that there is a huge difference in the costs of swab tests in different laboratories,” Vergeire said in Filipino.

The health official said that while there is an existing law that mandates a price ceiling on medicines, it does not cover the cost of diagnostic tests and professional fees.

“This is what where asking that maybe for this pandemic situation, we can be able to have this EO so that we can somehow regulate the prices of swabs or prices of testing for COVID-19,” she said, adding the agency is waiting for the response of the Office of the President.

In a message sent to reporters, Vergeire said there is still no proposed price ceiling for swab tests. She added there will be small surveys as well as consultations with experts and the Department of Trade and Industry to determine the price range.

Experts dubbed PCR tests as the “gold standard” in coronavirus testing.

Currently, there are 129 licensed testing laboratories in the country. Some 3.191 million have been so far tested for coronavirus in the Philippines.

Over 290,000 people have been afflicted with COVID-19 in the Philippines. Of the figure, 4,999 have died.

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