PHL gov’t targets setting up 78 COVID-19 labs, to do 30k tests per day by end of May

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 27, 2020. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


(Eagle News) – The Philippines hopes to conduct 30,000 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of May as government officials pushed for a “test,test,test (T3) approach to beat the virus.

Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) president Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the National Action Policy (NAP) against COVID-19, said that they also hope to set up a total of 78 laboratories by May 30.

Presently, there are 20 laboratories which had already been certified to take and process COVID-19 tests by the Department of Health (DOH).

At least 58 more laboratories are in the process of being validated by DOH.

Kailangan po ready tayong mag-test sa ating mga kababayan,” Dizon said.

Ngayon po ay 5,000 tests per day ang ating nagagawa. Gusto natin itong tumaas ng 30,000 tests per day,” he said in a virtual presser on Tuesday, May 5.

On Monday night, Dizon also reported to President Rodrigo Duterte on how important it is for the country to do more mass testing for COVID-19 nationwide.

Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) president Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the National Action Policy (NAP) against COVID-19, explaining need for more mass testing for COVID-19 in the country to stem the virus spread. (Screengrab of PCOO video/Courtesy PCOO)

He quoted the World Health Organization (WHO) to stress the point.

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” he said.

“There is a simple message for all countries, and that message from the WHO is to test, test, test” he said.

-Unmasking the enemy-

Dizon also cited what General Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the national action policy against COVID-19, had said.

“Kumbaga sa giyera po kailangan i-unmask natin ‘yung kalaban ‘no kasi kung ano, kung hindi natin ite-test hindi po natin alam kung sino po ang nahawaan na nitong kalaban na ito,” he said.

“Ang kalaban po ay ‘yung disease, hindi po ‘yung taong may sakit. Ang kalaban po ay ‘yung sakit itself. But to unmask that we have to test,” he said.

Dizon said that it is important to invest more in PCR laboratory tests, considered by the Department of Health as the gold standard for COVID-19 tests.

Currently, rapid anti-body tests still have to be corroborated by PCR lab tests.

-58 labs up for accreditation-

“Right now po, there are about 58 (laboratories) already in the advanced stages of accreditation, and that is really what we need to do po. We need to speed up, and Secretary (Francisco) Duque (III) emphasized this po, We need to speed up the accreditation of these labs in order for them to begin operation within the month of May,” Dizon said.

He also cited as example Vietnam which had invested early in setting up laboratories early in the fight against COVID-19

“if we look at Vietnam, Mr. President, Mayor po ‘no, Vietnam po in January of 2020 had three labs. Tatlo po ang laboratories nila. Ngayon po, they now have 112 laboratories,” he noted.

He said that once the country has instituted massive testing, then easing of restrictions can be confidently done, especially since there is still no vaccine developed against COVID-19.

“And this is I think we can — we can draw from the experience of Vietnam and all other countries like Korea and Germany, those that have tested very, very swiftly and very broadly. Kasi ito po talaga ang way eh. Once na we have enough testing capacity, sabi nga po ni Secretary Duque at ni Secretary
Galvez, mas magiging kampante po tayo na mag-ease ng restriction,” Dizon said.

He also cited as example, Germany which can do up to 120,000 tests per day.

“This is not cheap. A RT-PCR test ranges anywhere between I think 2,000 to — for the private labs, I think it goes up to above 5,000 ‘no. It’s not cheap. But it is absolutely necessary po. We need to really invest in the testing capacity also because we know that a vaccine is not forthcoming soon,” he added.

(Eagle News Service)