PH may now test asymptomatic patients, says COVID-19 deputy chief implementer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — The Philippines may now include asymptomatic patients in the expanded targeted testing for the coronavirus disease, COVID-19 Response Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon announced Thursday.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Dizon said the government may now test patients showing mild or no symptoms of the disease, citing the country's increased testing capacity.

"Dahil sa malaking capacity na natin nationwide lalo na po sa Visayas at Mindanao, pwede na po tayong lumampas pa sa mga may simtomas," he said. "At dapat po ang ating goal na ngayon sa expanded targeted testing ay paghanap at pag-test ng mga asymptomatics--yun pong mga kababayan natin na wala masyadong simtomas."

[Translation: Because of our increased capacity nationwide, especially in Visayas and Mindanao, we may now extend our coverage from those who exhibit symptoms. By now, our goal should be to do an expanded targeted testing to locate and test the asymptomatics--those who show mild symptoms.]

Dizon said testing must now be expanded to densely-populated areas such as Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Cebu, and Davao.

Testing asymptomatics must also cover frontliners, especially health workers, transport workers, law enforcers, guards, and cashiers, among others.

He noted that in the Philippines and elsewhere, almost 98 percent of COVID-19 cases have mild or no symptoms, while only 2 percent show critical conditions.

Dizon said the COVID-19 testing capacity nationwide has reached 41,990, surpassing the government's goal of 30,000 by the end of May.

The country now has 52 licensed testing laboratories, 33 of which are government-owned, while 19 are from the private sector, he added.

The DOH said as of June 2, the country's rated testing capacity was at 34,000 per day. This refers to the number of tests that laboratories can conduct daily without taking into account other factors such as operational issues.

Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the asymptomatics fall under Subgroup D or the last priority, as they are categorized with no symptoms but have exposure to confirmed cases.

"Our expanded testing protocol includes the Sub Group D who are those asymptomatics with exposure,and the protocol states that once we already have lab capacity,we may already include them in our targets for testing," Vergeire said.

The department said actual testing capacity, based on the average daily testing output for the past two weeks, is 8,000 to 9,000 tests per day only.

The DOH previously said that it is not cost-effective to test asymptomatic cases due to limited resources.