Mega Swabbing Center in Philippine Sports Stadium in Sta Maria Bulacan pictured last May 20, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Almost 150,000 Manila residents tested for COVID-19 — Moreno
( - July 2, 2020 - 7:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila City government on Thursday said 135,048 of its residents have been tested for novel coronavirus using rapid antibody test kits.

Mayor Isko Moreno in a press release said Manila "did not spend a single centavo" as all the rapid test kits used were "donated or turned over by various offices and groups from the government and private sector."

In addition to this, Moreno says 14,162 residents were given reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests which are considered the gold standard in testing for COVID-19.

"I will not lie with numbers, if we are doing bad, you must know so we can act responsibly. We have spent millions of pesos to give free swab testing in the City of Manila,” Domagoso said.

He added that Manila recently opened its own COVID-19 testing laboratory in Sta. Ana Hospital after receiving its operating license from the health department. Moreno said the lab is able to process 200 swab tests per day, with results available three to four hours.

If a total of 149,210 Manila residents have in fact been tested, this would mean that around 8% of the city's population has been screened for the deadly novel coronavirus.

'Expanded targeted testing'

Data from the health department on Thursday revealed that some 680, 230 Filipinos have been tested for COVID-19 in total. Given the country's population of over 109 million, this means that less than 1% of the population has been tested so far.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in June said the department is aiming test around 1.63 million Filipinos — about 1.5% of the population—by the end of the month.

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

National Task Force against COVID-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon on Monday announced the national government's ambitious plan to test 10 million Filipinos in the next eight to ten months.

He said in a CNN Philippines interview that the government would specifically be expanding testing into two sectors: non-medical front liners and those working in critical economic zones.

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

"You cannot test 10 million in a few weeks or few months, no? It's just not possible. What we need to do is, given the capacity that we have, we have to program our testing in a smart way with the end objective of keeping the economy open. That is the goal now, we have to manage it," Dizon said Monday.

The government, however, has previously struggled to meet its testing goals. It has also flip-flopped on whether the goals it sets for itself refer to testing capacity or the actual number of tests to be conducted.

As the Philippines continues to be under the longest community quarantine in the world, the health department on Thursday logged 38,805 cases of novel coronavirus along with a death toll of 1,274.

Researchers from the University of the Philippines estimate that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country could soar to 60,000 by the end of July as the Philippines is still experiencing “significant” community transmission of the illness. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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