Review of 'false positive' COVID-19 cases finds Red Cross test samples valid, reliable

Review of 'false positive' COVID-19 cases finds Red Cross test samples valid, reliable
This July 8, 2020 file photo shows the Philippine Red Cross molecular laboratory in Batangas City.
Philippine Red Cross, release

MANILA, Philippines — There is no evidence to support an allegation that a Philippine Red Cross laboratory produced false COVID-19 test results, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine that reviewed the cases said. 

In a brief of its investigation into allegations raised by President Rodrigo Duterte, RITM said it found no evidence for the claim and said the samples submitted by the PRC were "valid and reliable." 

According to the RITM, it looked at case investigation forms, laboratory records relevant to the cases and verification of testing workflow, proficiency testing, and the implementation of the PRC's laboratory quality management system. 

"We found no evidence of contamination for the forty-eight (48) cases tested by PRC Subic that may have led to the generation of false-positive results," the report explainer reads. 

"The results released by PRC Subic for the concerned cases were found to be valid and reliable," it also says. 

"Based on the investigation performed, other variables contributing to variations between the final PCR results released by the two laboratories may have contributed to the variation of the test result, specifically the timing of specimen collection," the RITM said. 

Duterte's accusations in September came as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee was holding hearings into how the government spent billions meant for pandemic response and allegations of irregularities in some contracts.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee, is also chairman of the PRC. 

"The problem here, Dick, is what happens to those people accepted that your RT-PCR test on them is positive when all along they are negative because they have no money and were just following [the results]. They had to endure confinement of two weeks when all along they really tested negative," he said in a public address on September 20.

"Maybe the DOH must investigate this matter. You could be putting more people at risk. You could be falsely adding to the total positive cases per day of this country."

The PRC, which earlier stood by the integrity of the positive results issued by its molecular laboratory in Subic, welcomed the development, saying the PRC was a victim of unsubstantiated allegations.

"The PRC has found itself a victim of this due to damning evidence found against parties involved in the awarding of the more than P8.7-billion contracts for overpriced medical supplies to an undercapitalized company," the PRC said in a statement.

The Senate panel has not made any conclusions on the alleged irregularities as hearings continue. Findings would have to be included in a committee report, which would still be subject to approval by members of the panel. 

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