Gov’t targets 90,000 daily COVID-19 testing — Dizon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30)— The government will double the daily COVID-19 testing in the country, Testing czar Vince Dizon said on Tuesday, in the wake of an exponential surge in infection.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Dizon said experts and the COVID-19 task force recommended 90,000 daily tests from the current 45,000 in the coming weeks.

“We’ve been hitting above 45,000 tests on average, and we even hit a high of 58,000 tests per day,” Dizon told The Source. “But despite that tremendous number of tests per day, we still need to test more.”

He said the government plans to use antigen tests — certified by the World Health Organization and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine — which provide faster results than the RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction), considered the gold standard.

Dizon noted the need to quickly detect COVID-19 cases for immediate isolation.

“Right now, time is of the essence,” he said “It’s not just about the number of tests that we do. It’s also about the time by which the tests come out.”

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire shared the sentiment, saying the test would be “appropriate” for areas hit by an outbreak like Metro Manila.

“We believe this can fast-track testing also,” Vergeire said in a separate interview with CNN Philippines’ New Day.

Where will it be deployed?

Dizon said the antigen tests procured by the government will be rolled out in areas with high risk of COVID-19 transmission, including hospitals and densely populated communities.

In particular, he said the government is aiming to cover 30,000 people in the NCR Plus bubble, namely Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan, for the antigen tests. This is in addition to the current 25,000 to 30,000 average RT-PCR testing capacity in the greater Manila area.

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Dizon said the local government units will be asked to help in the free antigen testing.

The Philippines has been recording all-time high numbers in new COVID-19 cases, with the DOH reporting a record 10,016 new infections on Monday.