DOH admits backlog, but assures PH ready for mass coronavirus testing should need arise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19) — The Philippines can carry out mass tests for coronavirus disease when the need arises, the Department of Health assured on Friday.

“‘Di natin kailangang gawin itong mass testing na ito [sa ngayon] (We do not need to do this mass testing for now.) Kung sakaling dumating ang panahon (But in case that time comes), we have enough resources. The government can do it,” DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in a briefing.

However, Vergeire admitted that due to the country’s limited testing capabilities, hundreds of tests remain unprocessed.

“Gusto nating maging [We want to be] straightforward. We are being challenged right now with our testing capacity,” the official said.

Official government data show a total of 298 patients suspected to have COVID-19 are still awaiting test results.

There were reports some patients under investigation have died before the results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine came out, including one confined at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City for severe acute respiratory illness.

The RITM earlier served as the only confirmatory testing laboratory for COVID-19 in the Philippines. But Vergeire said more hospitals can now conduct tests and authorities are dealing with the backlog.

She said starting Friday, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Center in Cebu City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, Baguio General Hospital in Baguio City can now assist the national reference laboratory in running coronavirus tests after they provided them with testing supplies.

Vergeire said the country has also received an additional 3,000 test kits from other countries and added that they are expecting tens of thousands more to arrive.

The Food and Administration also approved Thursday four imported test kits for commercial use.

As of Thursday noon, the number of people who were diagnosed with the coronavirus disease in the Philippines has gone up to 217, with 17 deaths and eight recoveries.

New cases were recorded each day since March 6.