RITM staff did not contract COVID-19 from processing test samples, says DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) — The Department of Health on Tuesday said the 43 Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) personnel who tested positive for COVID-19 did not contract the viral disease from processing test samples.

Sinisigurado po ng kagawaran na mahigpit pong sinusunod ng mga empleyado ng RITM ang lahat ng infection prevention and control protocols at hindi po nakuha ang virus mula sa pagpoproseso ng kanilang mga tests,” DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual press briefing.

[Translation: The department assures that RITM employees strictly follow all infection prevention and control protocols and they did not get the virus from processing test samples.]

She also said they have issued stricter guidelines to prevent further infections.

Vergeire said they continue to test and trace close contacts of the sick RITM staff to determine how they got infected in the first place.

She had earlier told CNN Philippines that an initial report shows that employees caught the virus in their communities when they went out after their shifts.

Vergeire added that of the 43 RITM staff who tested positive, two are aged 60 and above. Elderly people are considered to be at a higher risk for fatal complications due to COVID-19.

RITM scaled down test processing operations to give way to the implementation of safety measures, with the country’s leading COVID-19 testing center only able to process 1,200 tests per day. The Health department said its testing capacity will increase to 2,000 a day by Saturday.

To ease RITM’s backlog, some samples have been sent to other accredited COVID-19 testing labs like St. Luke’s Medical Center, The Medical City, Makati Medical Center, Chinese General Hospital and Detoxicare Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory.

RITM's priority is processing the test results of all its employees, but it continues to accept samples from Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Pasay City.

Sinisigurado po namin na hindi maantala ang ating mga resulta, lalong-lalo na po’t ginagawa natin ang expanded testing sa ngayon," Vergeire said. "Inaasahan po natin na makakahabol po tayo sa mga backlog sa katapusan ng buwan na ito."

[Translation: We are making sure that our results will not be delayed, especially now that we have expanded testing. We expect to catch up with our backlog by the end of the month.]