‘Mass testing’ for suspected COVID-19 cases, high-risk patients only

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Not everyone will be covered in the government's idea to conduct "mass testing", the Health Department clarified. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 4) — Only a targeted population will be included in the government’s plan to conduct “mass testing” for the coronavirus disease, the Department of Health said Saturday.

The agency clarified that the scope covers only persons under investigation and monitoring for possible infection with symptoms and high-risk patients such as health workers, pregnant women and those with other medical conditions, such as cancer and diabetes.

Hindi po ibig sabihin nito na lahat ng Pilipino ay itetest natin. Ang mass testing po na ating sinasabi ay isang malawakang testing ng mga taong at risk sa COVID-19,” said Ma. Rosario Vergeire, Health Spokesperson in the DOH daily briefing.

[Translation: This does not mean that all Filipinos will get tested. Mass testing means a wider scope of testing of people at risk for COVID-19.]

Vergeire said the department agrees with the government’s idea to test more people. The DOH will soon release guidelines expounding on the qualifications for testing, what kits will be used and who will interpret the data, she added.

Earlier, the spokesperson said mass testing is still under deliberation by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

As of Friday, 16,368 people have been tested for COVID-19. Vergeire said mass testing is assured given the improving capacity of the country’s accredited laboratories.

The health official said the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine and other subnational laboratories can collectively administer 900 to 1,200 tests daily. This number will further increase to more than 3,000 a day by April 14 and up to 10,000 daily by the end of the month, Vergeire projected.

More tests are expected as a new and locally-made kit also received its certification on Friday. The Polymerase Chain Reaction-based kits developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines will be rolling out its product for commercial use.

Six hospitals, namely the Philippine General Hospital, The Medical City, Makati Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center and Baguio General Hospital will receive 26,000 UP test kits to be used until April 25.

Vergeire stressed that only certified laboratories can use the new tests, since they are PCR-based and not the rapid kind. PCR-based kits can directly detect the novel coronavirus in the patient’s body while the rapid tests can find the antibodies that fight the infection.