No need for Covid-19 mass testing yet: DOH

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

March 20, 2020, 5:19 pm

<p>Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. <em>(Screengrab from PTV)</em></p>

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. (Screengrab from PTV)

MANILA – There is no need yet for a mass testing of Filipinos for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire issued the statement as she admitted challenges in the government’s testing and laboratory capacities for Covid-19.

Vergeire, however, ensured that the government is ready to undertake such measure to address the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sa ngayon po, hindi pa naman nakikitang kailangan nating gawin itong mass testing na ito (For now, we don’t see the need to do mass testing),” she said in a Palace press briefing.

She said the proposal is possible, once there are enough resources.

Nasa talaan, nasa mapa, nasa radar na kung sakaling dumating ‘yung panahon (It is in our plans, in our map, in our radar that when the time comes) and if we have enough resources and the government can do it, and it is already imperative for the government to do it, gagawan po natin ‘yan (we will do it),” Vergeire said.

In South Korea, anyone who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient can avail of free tests for the novel coronavirus.

Vergeire, however, noted that the move made by South Korea does not apply to the Philippines due to the limited number of test kits.

She said people in the Philippines who can only be tested for Covid-19 are those who have been showing severe symptoms of the disease, the elderly, and high-risk pregnant women.

‘Yung mga napapabalita po na may delay, totoo po ‘yun (Reports about delay in testing are true). We are being challenged right now with our testing capacity and laboratory capacity,” Vergeire said. 

Vergeire noted that the Food and Drug Administration has already approved four Covid-19 diagnostic kits for commercial use.

But she clarified that the approved test kits can only be used by hospitals or laboratories with testing capacity.

In a radio interview on Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said around 125,000 test kits from China and South Korea are expected to arrive in the Philippines on Saturday.

May paparating na (We expect the delivery of) 25,000 from South Korea and 100,000 from China tomorrow,” Duque said.

As of Friday noon, the Philippines has 230 positive cases of Covid-19 that was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Around 18 Covid-19 patients died while eight others already recovered. (PNA)