COVID-19 testing centers working round the clock to clear their backlogs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, Mat 28) — The Department of Health said on Thursday that accredited COVID-19 testing centers across the country still face a backlog of over 3,000 tests, which may be cleared within the day.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that there used to be 12,000 unprocessed tests two weeks ago, but the health facilities were able to significantly decrease their backlogs to 3,683 on Wednesday.

Vergeire said they are determined to overcome the delay by tonight.

“Last Monday, we have instructed them [laboratories] to reduce the backlog in two to three days as ordered by the Office of the President,” Vergeire told reporters in an online briefing.

Meron tayong target na by tonight, we will be reducing these backlogs to zero,” she added.

Vergeire said that backlogs in laboratories refer to the unexamined swab samples after the 49-72 hour standard processing time.

“If you go past that 72 hours, may backlog ka na (you already have a backlog),” she pointed out.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said accredited centers can collectively process 32,100 tests, surpassing the target of 30,000 by May 31.

But Vergeire clarified on the same day that this was just the “estimated maximum capacity" of all accredited laboratories in the country, adding that the actual tests done per day is lower. On Monday, the total number of tests performed was less than 6,000, according to the DOH tracker.

Vergeire said the delay in processing test results is due to a myriad of issues, particularly medical supplies. But with the help of the private sector, they were able to source materials, which the testing centers need.

She added that their output was affected when Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory, University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health, and Lung Center of the Philippines temporary halted testing coronavirus samples.

However, Vergeire said she expects the daily testing to increase again as the three facilities resumed operations on Monday.

She also said they are seeking to accredit more health facilities before the end of May to keep up with the demand for testing.

Bicol facility gets COVID-19 testing center accreditation

Meanwhile, the DOH-Bicol announced on Thursday that the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City has received its testing accreditation from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

This brings to 43 the total number of accredited testing centers in the country.

It will cater to the provinces of Camarines Sur, including Naga City and Camarines Norte, the regional department said in a post on Facebook.

The center is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., including holidays, it added.

The DOH-Bicol said the facility could only test 40 samples a day.