THE backlog in diagnostic tests for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has reached 7,000, according to National Task Force on Covid-19 deputy chief implementer Vivencio “Vince” Dizon.
Following a meeting with representatives of all accredited testing laboratories nationwide on Wednesday, Dizon said he was confident that this backlog would be addressed in two weeks.
“Nakahanap tayo ng solusyon at kampante po tayo sa tulong ng ating mga private partners ay sa loob ng daalwang linggo ay mauubos natin itong backlog na ito at tuloy-tuloy po ang pagtaas ng ating tests per day at ng ating capacity,” he said during the regular virtual press briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
Dizon, the Presidential Assistant on flagship programs and projects who is in charge of the government’s test, trace and treat (T3) program, said two major agreements were reached during the meeting.
Firstly, private testing laboratories agreed to help government-run laboratories address their backlog beginning Thursday, and secondly, donors such as the San Miguel Corporation provided the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and other government laboratories with machines to speed up some processes.
The automation of some processes in government laboratories would increase capacity by at least 80 percent, Dizon said.
He said actual tests conducted per day averaged 8,700 tests on May 10, around 74 percent higher than the 5,000 tests on May 2.
Testing capacity went up 70 percent to 14,500 tests per day on May 10 from 8,500 on May 2 as the number of accredited laboratories increased.
As of May 14, the government has authorized 30 laboratories nationwide to conduct the RT-PCR (reverse transcription - polymerase chain reaction) diagnostic test for Covid-19.
The goal is to bring testing capacity up to 30,000 per day and accredit up to 66, not 78 as earlier targeted, laboratories by May 30.
“‘Pag umabot po tayo sa ganitong kalaking kapasidad, halos pumapantay na po tayo sa mga bansang talagang tinatawag na benchmark o standard sa testing sa buong mundo katulad po ng South Korea at Singapore,” Dizon said.
Dizon said the task force targets to accredit at least one laboratory per major island in the Visayas and open additional laboratories in Mindanao.
Dizon stressed that the most effective way to address the Covid-19 pandemic is through mass testing.
“Ang testing po ang pinaka-importanteng paraan para po talagang malaman natin kung gaano na kalala o gaano na karami ang na-infect ng Covid-19 sa ating mga komunidad,” he added.
Processing of the estimated 7,000 specimens, however, has been delayed due to various reasons, including lack of supplies and technical problems with the machines.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, in a resolution passed Wednesday, clarified that LGUs are authorized to procure and use rapid antibody test kits approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As of May 8, 2020, the FDA has approved the commercial use of 39 rapid antibody test kits with varying specifications.
The test kits approved by the FDA can detect either the total antibody, IgG or IgM, or a combination of two antibodies.
The total antibody signifies the collective response of the patient’s immune system. IgM antibodies represent response to a current or recent infection while IgG antibodies represent response from a past infection.
The FDA has also approved 38 RT-PCR test kits as of May 5. These diagnostic test kits detect the presence of the novel coronavirus, or Sars-CoV-2, from nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs. (MVI with JTM/SunStar Philippines)