Virus testing lab at airport begins operations

THE new molecular diagnostics laboratory at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) began operations on June 21, 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas announced.

DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas, in a virtual press conference on June 22, said the laboratory can test 2,000 to 4,000 specimens daily for Sars-CoV-2 using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Sars-CoV-2, or novel coronavirus, causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“They started yesterday (June 21) for the arriving passengers. This is to address the need as passengers start coming in,” Bernadas said.

Arriving passengers are accommodated in hotels, with each passenger occupying one room.

If a passenger tests positive for Sars-CoV-2 but does not manifest any symptoms, he will continue to stay in the hotel, said Bernadas.

However, if the passenger starts to develop symptoms, he will immediately be transferred to a hospital, Bernadas added.

The DOH has yet to issue the protocol for arriving passengers. Initially, passengers are tagged based on their original address.

The MCIA laboratory, which was built by airport operator GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. and run by a private entity under DOH supervision, brings to four the total number of diagnostic laboratories for Covid-19 in Cebu.

The existing laboratories are the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) subnational laboratory, DOH-TB Reference Laboratory which has been converted into a Covid-19 testing center and the Allegiant Regional Care (ARC) Hospitals laboratory.

Bernadas said laboratories at Chong Hua Hospital and Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital are in the final stages of accreditation with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Meanwhile, Bernadas said the DOH has deployed 50 government nurses to augment the workforce in private hospitals, which have expanded their capacities to accommodate Covid-19 patients.

The agency is also tapping medical graduates who have yet to take the licensure examinations for physicians. They will serve as deputy physicians who will be supervised by licensed physicians.

Bernadas explained that hospitals had let go of some employees when regular admissions dropped in the early stage of the Covid-19 crisis. With the rise in Covid-19 cases, however, there is a need to augment healthcare workers. (JJL)