COVID TESTING LAB. The old building of the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center in Tacloban City. The facility is being eyed as the location of the proposed coronavirus testing laboratory in the region. (PNA file photo)

PALO, Leyte – The Department of Health (DOH) said a group of medical technologists in Eastern Visayas has offered their service to run the proposed regional coronavirus testing laboratory.

In a press briefing on Monday, DOH Eastern Visayas assistant regional director Exuperia Sabalberino said they’re done this week with the initial assessment of the proposed location at the old Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center building in Tacloban City.

“There is an assessment checklist that we have to follow since this is a highly sophisticated laboratory. There are several requirements we have to comply including manpower, equipment, and the physical set up,” she told reporters

Among the needed equipment to establish a regional testing lab is a PHP2.7-million real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine compatible with the coronavirus detection kits developed by the scientists at the National Institutes of Health of the University of the Philippines Manila.

Presently, patients’ samples from the region are sent to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City for testing, one of the five subnational laboratories for PCR testing in the country.

In the past few weeks, sample specimens were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City.

Sabalberino said it will take weeks before the proposed laboratory will be operational due to the quality assurance procedures of the RITM.

The regional office here on Monday also confirmed the first coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) case in Eastern Visayas.

A 51-year-old female from Catarman, Northern Samar who arrived in Manila from Japan on Jan. 2, stayed in Greenhills, San Juan for two months, and arrived in her province on March 4.

She was initially admitted to a private hospital in Catarman on March 10 after manifesting severe acute respiratory infection symptoms and was transferred at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center on March 12.

“Her condition improved and was subsequently wheeled-out of the intensive care unit with an occasional cough. She would have been discharged on Monday had the result been negative. We told her we have to do two more tests,” said DOH Regional Director Minerva Molon.

The health official said an intensive contact tracing is now underway to ensure all contacts are properly managed and samples were taken for laboratory confirmation.

The region has also recorded a total of 237 persons under investigation (PUI) for Covid-19 -- 59 in Northern Samar, 42 in Samar, 40 in Eastern Samar, 34 in Calbayog City, 19 in Leyte, 15 in Southern Leyte, 10 each in Maasin and Tacloban City, four in Ormoc City, two in Borongan City, and one each in Biliran province and Baybay City.

At least 15 PUIs are currently admitted and 31 have been discharged but still under strict monitoring, according to the health department. (PNA)