VIP treatment in coronavirus testing not a policy, says DOH

Bonz Magsambol

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VIP treatment in coronavirus testing not a policy, says DOH

Ben Nabong

The Department of Health, however, says it will give courtesy to 'officials holding positions of national security and public health'

MANILA, Philippines – Amid criticism from the public, the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, March 23, insisted there was “no policy for VIP treatment” in the novel coronavirus testing, but also said it would offer tests to a subset of government officials in charge of national security and public health.

“The DOH assures the public that there is no policy for VIP treatment and all specimens are being processed on a first-in, first-out basis, with courtesy accorded to officials holding positions of national security and public health,” the DOH said in a statement.

The agency had been criticized for allegedly prioritizing government officials for COVID-19 testing even if they didn’t show symptoms of the disease, at a time when patients experiencing severe symptoms were made to wait in hospitals due to the limited number of test kits. 

The DOH said its protocol on testing still followed the decision tool published on March 16. (READ: When should you get tested for coronavirus?)

According to the DOH decision tool, vulnerable sectors and persons under investigation (PUI) who are experiencing severe symptoms will be prioritized for testing.

“These are extraordinary times, but we are hopeful that with the arrival of 100,000 testing kits and accreditation of additional sub-national laboratories and dedicated COVID-19 referral hospitals, more cases will be detected and appropriately managed,” the DOH added. 

The DOH has rejected calls for doing rapid tests, saying these are not accurate enough to check for the novel coronavirus in patients.

Meanwhile, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said rapid test kits could produce false negative results as these test for antibodies, which often do not produce accurate results.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far approved 8 commercially available test kits for use.

Despite this, the Philippines’ capacity for coronavirus testing remains limited. The DOH says only 950 to 1,000 tests can be done per day, with the bulk coming from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

As of Monday, the Philippines has confirmed 462 cases of coronavirus, with 33 deaths and 18 recoveries. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.