Gonzales counters Young’s attempt to cast aspersions on purchase of test kits for PBB

ASSISTANT Secretary Jonji Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) chides Cebu City Councilor Joy Young for attempting to besmear the reputation of Secretary Michael Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.

Young posted on his Facebook account a collage of Mayor Labella’s post on March 20 announcing the arrival of test kits, which were actually reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) test kits, and a screen shot of the SunStar’s front page issue dated June 19, 2020, which showed the banner headline, “Test Kits Bought By LGU not OPAV: DINO. The publication’s story was on the purchase of the rapid test kits.

“Thanks to Joy Young we were reminded that the Christina Lee Dino Foundation (CLDF) donated several rt-PCR Machines and rt-PCR Test Kits as early as March this year,” Asec Gonzales said.

As early as February this year, when Covid-19 was detected in the country, Sec Michael Dino took note that there was a global scarcity of medical equipment and supplies to include medical face mask and personal protective equipment (PPEs), he recalled.

“To ensure that Visayas will have these supplies, the Christina Lee Dino Foundation donated three rt-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) machines,” Gonzales recalled.

Two of these rt-PCR machines were given to the Sub National Laboratory (SNL) at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City and one rt-PCR machine was given to Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) laboratory in Region 8,” he pointed out.

Along with the rt-PCR Machines, the CLDF also donated rt-PCR test kits and rt-PCR swab kits as well as medical masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs).

The VSMMC SNL opened in mid-April while the TB Reference Laboratory of Department of Health-7 started operating in the first week of May.

In addition, the foundation also distributed 20,000 rt-PCR test kits to the government laboratories and 10,000 rt-PCR swab kits to different government hospitals and LGUs in the Visayas .

Asec Gonzales clarified that when Mayor Labella announced the arrival of the donated test kits on his FB in March, there were still no DOH-7 validated serological (blood) antibody Rapid Detection Test (RDT) or commonly known as rapid test.

“Only those rapid test kits that passed the verification of the chief pathologist of DOH-7 were approved for use,” Gonzales said.

He also emphasized that between May 1 to 15, and even earlier, Central Visayas, including Cebu, conducted more rt-PCR tests than the entire country combined, a feat due to the donations of Cristina Lee Dino Foundation and the 30,000 rt-PCR test kits bought by Cebu City.

To recall, the World Health Organization announced that serological rapid tests using RDT (Rapid Detection Test) can only be used for research setting (e.g. prevalence survey), and not in the clinical decision making (diagnosis and treatment) of COVID-19 patients.

In fact, rapid test kits only started to get FDA approval around mid to late April yet after the DOH issued a circular that rapid anti-body test kits should be used in conjunction with rt-PCR. The DOH circular also recommended the use of rapid anti-body test in testing all asymptomatic contacts of COVID-19 cases unless there is a surplus testing of rt-PCR.

“There is no way to purchase the rapid test early March this year as Joy Young wanted to impress in order to sow public confusion with his concocted misleading information, which is very inappropriate during these times and punishable by law,” Asec Gonzales maintained.

“We want to believe that Joy Young imputed malice in his FB post and exposed his ignorance or his refusal to accept that good things that are happening in Cebu City for Mayor Edgar Labella in the middle of this pandemic,” he said. “I pity those who are losing their intelligence after they had the chance but failed to do something good for Cebu City.”(PR)