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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 8) — Laboratories in the country can now perform 12,000 tests daily for the coronavirus, national policy against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said on Friday.

"[A]ng ginagawa din natin ngayon ay binu-build up natin ang ating laboratory capacity, no. Ngayon, meron na tayong 12,000 capacity per day. Gusto nating tumaas yan sa 30,000 'pag umabot na tayo ng May 30," said Dizon in a Laging Handa virtual press briefing.

[Translation: We are also building up our laboratory capacity. We currently have a capacity of 12,000 (tests) per day. We want this number to go up to 30,000 by May 30.]

The Department of Health earlier set a target of 30,000 real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests on a daily basis by the end of May. RT-PCR tests are considered the "gold standard" in COVID-19 detection.

In a bid to further expand RT-PCR testing in the country, the government convened last month the public-private Task Force T3 (Test, Trace and Treat) with support from the Asian Development Bank.

The ADB has also helped set up a new laboratory in San Fernando City, Pampanga which will start conducting tests on May 10, in a boost to government's testing capacity.

The Pandemic Sub-National Reference Laboratory at the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital is funded by a $3 million grant from ADB's Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, the regional lender said.

“In addition, ADB is working closely with the Department of Health to prepare a $125 million project to supplement this new laboratory and support the government’s response to the pandemic with additional testing kits and medical and personal protection equipment for hospitals nationwide," the bank's Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed said.

Another 5,000 swab tests a day targeted by next week

Dizon said the government also expects further ramping up of capacity, with an additional 5,000 swab tests to be conducted once all mega swabbing centers are finally opened in the coming days.

"Kampante tayo na siguro sa susunod na linggo, makukuha na natin yung target natin na 5,000 a day kapag fully operational na lahat ng ating mga swabbing center," he said.

[Translation: We are confident that perhaps next week, we can already achieve our target of 5,000 (tests) a day once all our swabbing centers are fully operational.]

The Palacio de Maynila facility is the first mega swabbing center to start operations, which started conducting testing a day ago, he said.

The other mega swabbing centers are the Enderun Tent in Taguig City, Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, and the Philippine Sports Stadium in the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

The establishment of these swabbing centers is also part of the government's Test, Trace and Treat strategy, said the Bases Conversion and Development Authority in a statement on Friday.

Specimen acquired from these centers will be brought to the Philippine Red Cross laboratory for confirmatory testing, added Dizon.

To date, the Philippines has 10,463 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The virus has killed 696 people in the country, while 1,734 have recovered from it.