Covid-19 test kits not enough for everybody, DOH chief says

Jove Moya

A DIAGNOSTIC test for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is free, but not all will be able to avail themselves of the test kits, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

"Yun po kasing ating mga testing, kailangan po bigyan natin ng prayoridad dahil hindi po tayo puwedeng mag test ng lahat kasi wala po tayong kakayahan because of the global supply chain pressures," Duque told members of the House committee on health Wednesday, March 11.

Duque was reacting to the suggestion of Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago to issue a memorandum or public announcement that the test kits are free to encourage all those with symptoms of Covid-19 to get themselves tested.

Covid-19 is the contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Severe cases could lead to death if the patient has underlying medical conditions.

The Department of Health (DOH) is still procuring 40,000 diagnostic test kits, Duque told the House committee on appropriations on Tuesday.

The first shipment is expected to arrive on April 3, 2020. Two more shipments are scheduled to arrive every 15 days until May 3, 2020.

The DOH chief said they could not use the rapid diagnostic kits developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) without an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) permit from the World Health Organization.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier said it has approved the test kits, but only for field testing coupled with gene sequencing at the Philippine Genome Center.

According to Duque, the agency has now deployed at least 16 contact tracing teams in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nine more teams to nearby regions.

The DOH has allocated P60 million as additional surveillance funding.

As of Wednesday, the DOH has confirmed 33 Covid-19 cases, including two who are in critical condition.

Of the 33, 30 were confirmed only in the last five days. The first three were Chinese nationals who were visiting the country. Two have returned to China while one had died.

Duque said seven are from San Juan City, four from Marikina City, three each from Quezon and Pasig cities, and two each from New Clark City in Tarlac, Cainta in Rizal, and Makati City.

There are also 95 overseas Filipinos who have been found positive for Covid-19: 80 in Japan, six in the US, four in Hong Kong, three in Singapore, and two in UAE.

Meanwhile, six foreign nationals who had traveled from the Philippines tested positive for Covid-19.

Two Japanese nationals are currently admitted with travel history of at least seven to nine days stay in the country.

A Taiwanese national tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from a five-day stay in the country.

An Australian national is currently on home quarantine after traveling to the Philippines.

A Singaporean national also tested positive after staying in the country for three days while a Korean national who stayed in the country for two months also tested positive for Covid-19. (SunStar Philippines)