BOOSTING TESTING CAPACITY. The PRC molecular testing facility opens on Saturday (Sept. 18, 2021) in Cotabato City. The facility can process up to 2,000 Covid-19 testings daily. (Photo courtesy of PRC–Cotabato)

COTABATO CITY – The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) opened here on Saturday its 14th molecular laboratory to help boost testing capacity for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) nationwide. 
The testing laboratory, established at Barangay Balabaran, is equipped with two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines and one ribonucleic acid (RNA) extractor. 
“It can process up to 2,000 tests daily,” Marlon Palarion Jr., a registered medical technologist and PRC laboratory supervisor, told reporters in an interview. 
He said the facility, which began construction in May this year in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), will serve this city and the neighboring provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and South Cotabato, among others. 
“Its initial number of personnel includes 12 medical technologies, four encoders, four specimen collectors, and ancillary workers,” Palarion said. 
In his virtual message, Senator Richard Gordon, concurrent PRC chairman and chief executive officer, thanked the ICRC for the partnership on efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic. 
“This molecular laboratory will further hasten our Covid-19 response there (in your area),” Gordon said as he underscored the importance of regular testing.
Others who attended the virtual launching of the new facility were PRC Secretary General Elizabeth Zavalla, PRC Cotabato chairperson Bai Fatima Sinsuat and Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi. 
The Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in this city currently can only accommodate 200 reverse transcription (RT)-PCR tests daily. 
In a statement, the PRC said it has recently lowered its RT-PCR testing fees for swab and saliva tests from PHP3,800 to PHP2,800, and from PHP2,000 to PHP1,500, respectively. 
The city alone has 393 active Covid-19 cases to date. (PNA)