Rep. Yap doesn't have COVID-19; RITM apologizes for encoding error

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine on Friday apologized for its erroneous report that ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Yap tested positive for COVID-19.

"We wish to publicly apologize to Hon. Erick Go Yap of ACT-CIS Partylist for forwarding a report of his COVID-19 results that displayed a clerical oversight," the RITM said in a statement on Friday.

The RITM said Yap's results were actually a "false positive," stressing that the lawmaker "remains negative" of coronavirus infection.

The RITM stressed that this is an isolated incident, brought about by an encoding error that was discovered Thursday night by its Molecular Biology Laboratory.

It added that the individual responsible for the incident was an augmentation staff from outside the regular workforce of the laboratory, and is now "being dealt with administratively."

Yap disclosed his COVID-19 diagnosis on Wednesday. It was even more controversial since he attended a Malacañang meeting last Saturday and the Presidential Security Group said it is eyeing charges against him.

"Again, we profusely and sincerely apologize to Hon. Erick Go Yap for the unnecessary discomfort this incident has caused," the RITM said.

Yap: Don't take it against RITM

Yap in a separate statement accepted the facility's apology.

"Inaamin ko, the past 48 hours has been very hard for me and to everyone around me. Hindi naging madali ito pero buong puso kong tinatanggap ang apology ng DOH-RITM," Yap said.

He added that the RITM's director, Celia Carlos, herself called him to explain what happened.

"Naiintindihan ko, they are the busiest medical facility in the country right now. It's not an excuse pero normal na nagkakaroon ng pagkakamali sa dami at sa pressure na tinatanggap ng RITM ngayon," Yap added.

He urged the public not to take it against RITM, stressing that the incident was "just a clerical error."

'This will never happen again'

The RITM assured that its testing process is compliant with the World Health Organization's protocol, "and that our results remain accurate despite this incident."

"We promise that this, and other associated incidents, will never happen again," the RITM said.

The RITM also stressed that the polymerase chain reaction testing procedure which it uses "still stands as the gold standard in detecting the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19."

RITM and the war vs COVID-19

The RITM earlier served as the only confirmatory testing laboratory for COVID-19 in the Philippines.

READ: COVID-19 test results from RITM out in 5 to 7 days, but not for long, DOH says

Now it is joined by Vicente Sotto Memorial Center in Cebu City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, Baguio General Hospital in Baguio City and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

There have been calls for mass testing, but the Department of Health has said the country does not have the resources for it yet.

The Philippines now has 803 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of this number, 54 died while 31 recovered.