Davao ready for limited coronavirus tests but Mindanao mass checking sought

Rappler.com
Davao ready for limited coronavirus tests but Mindanao mass checking sought
Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City is promised 5,000 test kits for coronavirus after the completion of initial validations tests

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City on Tuesday, March 24, said it is now capable of local testing of samples for the novel coronavirus disease. 

Anabelle Yumang, head of Department of Health (DOH) Region 11, said there are limited supply of test kits, however. 

“The current protocol is to test only those who are admitted in the hospital,” she said during a press conference on Tuesday. 

There were demands for “targeted mass testing” in the entire Mindanao, citing the experience of South Korea which conducted as many as 20,000 tests a day in order to identify and isolate positive coronavirus cases. 

“Mindanaoans should unite in calling for mass and sustained testing as recommended by the World Health Organization,” Bishop Melzar Labuntog, chairman of humanitarian group Balsa Mindanao, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The bishop said the region should be prioritized because of its vulnerable population, citing the prevalence of seasonal workers, farmworkers, contractual workers, street peddlers, poor peasants, indigenous peoples, and countless of unemployed.

“Given current limitations, we need to prioritize and target mass testing for persons under monitoring, persons under investigation, the elderly, and those vulnerable due to chronic health and nutrition problems like poor women and children, indigenous peoples, workers in frontline services including health workers, and the urban poor,” he said.

Balsa Mindanao also encouraged the mobilization of barangay health workers in preventing the spread of the disease, distribution of cash subsidies and food assistance to vulnerable population, government purchase of agricultural products for distribution to the people, and price control of basic commodities among other suggestions. 

Mass testing is ‘doable’

Yumang said mass testing is “doable in the Davao region” if the test kits are available.

Cleofe Tabada, head of the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) for Davao, said they have tested at least 65 samples at SPMC since the hospital received test kits from the DOH national office on March 19.

Tabada said these initial results from the local tests will still go through validation tests at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City. 

The hospital will conduct tests in full swing after RITM completes initial tests.

DOH Assistant Secretary Roy Ferrer, coordinator of the Emergency Operations Center for the Visayas and Mindanao, said 200 more test kits arrived in Mindanao on Monday and 5,000 more are expected after RITM completes initial validation tests.

“There is also a potential to expand the testing capacity in Mindanao,” Ferrer said. A secondary test center was proposed. – Rappler.com