Cebu’s testing capacity to rise; task force head lauds local leaders

CEBU’S testing capacity for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) will increase to 10,000 tests daily within the next two months as the head of the national task force praised local government units (LGUs) and the private sector for their "collaborative" efforts to contain the pandemic.

Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the ad hoc agency tasked with containing the spread of the new coronavirus in the country, was in Cebu Saturday, May 23, 2020, together with his deputy chief implementer, Vince Dizon. Galvez said they were sent by President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go to check the situation in Cebu since it has a high number of Covid-19 cases.

“Ako’y natutuwa na napakaganda ng coordination ng LGU. Napakaganda ng coordination ng private sector at saka ang ng leadership, katulad ng leadership na ginawa ni Mike Dino na he was able to mobilize the private sector,” Galvez said, in a press release from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Dino.

Dizon said they are targeting to increase the testing capacity in Cebu to 10,000 tests daily within the next two months. “The key to really preventing another wave of this virus and also the key to slowly rebuilding the economy is to build up our testing capacity for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. That is the key,” Dizon said.

Dizon said the government will be increasing the capacity of the Cebu TB Reference Laboratory Molecular Facility for Covid-19 Testing (CTRL-MFCT) at the Department of Health 7 office and at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center Sub-National Laboratory. The two laboratories will each get an automated extraction machine that will increase their capacity to 2,000 tests daily, he added.

To further ramp up testing capacity in Cebu, two more molecular laboratories will be set up, Dizon added.

Airport laboratory

A 2,000-capacity laboratory will be set up at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA). Another 2,000-capacity modular laboratory, which is donated by Unilab, will be located at the Cebu Doctors’ Hospital (CDH), he said. The CDH laboratory is expected to be accredited within two to three weeks.

Also, Sen. Richard Gordon had promised that the Philippine National Red Cross would set up another laboratory with a capacity of 4,000 tests daily, Dizon said.

Galvez said a second wave of Covid-19 cases could occur due to complacency, citing what happened in the flu outbreak in the US. “(The second wave would happen) if we lower our guard, if we open travel, tourism and we are not prepared for it. We are now preparing the protocol to prevent the occurrence of the second wave,” he said.

These include the setting up of one-stop-shop testing centers at airports and ports.

Galvez also said the country is winning the fight against Covid-19. “I believe yes, we are winning the war,” he said when asked about it. He noted that the number of recoveries has increased while the new cases are on a plateau and the number of deaths now ranges from a low of four to 11 since May 16.

“Out of 13,000 cases, 9,800 are active with most of them, 80 percent, are asymptomatic, meaning our cases now are getting manageable,” Galvez said. (PR)