Roque admits gov't slow to roll out COVID-19 testing

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque agreed to criticisms that government went slow in scaling up testing efforts for COVID-19.

"Hindi ko madi-dispute na medyo hindi natin nakamit 'yung goal na by April 30, meron na tayong 8,000 daily testing ang DOH. Na-delay po tayo," Roque said in a Monday briefing.

[Translation: I cannot dispute the fact that we really didn't meet the goal of equipping DOH for the conduct of 8,000 daily tests by April 30. We have been delayed.]

He was reacting to a statement from Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who said the government has been very slow in rolling out widespread testing.

However, the Cabinet official said government has since refocused its efforts to the bigger goal of improving the daily capacity to 30,000 tests per day by May 31, with some 50 testing centers eyed to open in the next two weeks.

"One thing we can assure you is we are taking steps to increase our testing capacity, kaya nga po itinalaga si Mr. Vince Dizon as the testing czar," Roque added, pointing out the opening of mega swabbing centers last week.

"It is only through testing na malalaman natin kung nasaan po ang kalaban [where we can know where the enemy is]," he said.

RELATED: Dizon: Laboratory capacity now at 12,000 tests per day

There are currently 28 testing centers nationwide, Roque said, against a goal of 78 stations by end-May. The government has conducted 151,080 tests for 137,055 individuals, according to the Department of Health.

President Rodrigo Duterte will decide on the fate of Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and all-other high-risk areas today if they will remain under enhanced community quarantine after two months of lockdown.

A number of cities and provinces have initiated their own localized mass testing efforts as they hope to isolate carriers of the virus and prevent further infections. Roque said that latest available data showed that Quezon City, the City of Manila, Parañaque, Makati and Mandaluyong have the most number of cases in the National Capital Region.

He also noted that the state wants to run a 2.2 million rapid tests and over 900,000 tests done via the polymerase chain reaction method, which is deemed more accurate in detecting COVID-19 in a patient's body.

To prevent artificial spikes in reported COVID-19 infections, Roque also proposed laboratories to use the date of taking swab samples from patients as the date of reporting if they turn out positive to capture a more accurate picture.

There are 10,794 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country as of Sunday afternoon. Of these, 1,924 patients have recovered while 719 died from the disease.