5,000 coronavirus test kits arrive in Iloilo City

Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay
The lab at Western Visayas Medical Center has already begun testing persons under investigation for the coronavirus in the region

TESTING. The Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City will be a new coronavirus test lab in the Western Visayas. Photo from PhilHealth website

ILOILO CITY, Philippines ­– A shipment of 5,000 coronavirus test kits arrived here on Wednesday, March 25, the Department of Health (DOH) in Western Visayas confirmed.

This means the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in the Mandurriao district will soon be able to start its operations – and relieve testing bottlenecks in other labs – as an accredited testing center for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

This is the second accredited testing center in the Visayas. The other is the Vicente Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City. (READ: Over 30,000 coronavirus test kits arrive in Cebu)

Jane Juanico, head of the Infectious Disease Section of DOH-Region VI, confirmed the arrival of the batch earlier today in a phone interview. 

The DOH had officially accredited WVMC as the first test hub in Western Visayas for the novel coronavirus. The batch of test kits that arrived on Wednesday was allocated to the region by the DOH Central Office.

Juanico said that the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) sent two medical technologists from Metro Manila to run the test hub for the time being while two Ilonggo technicians are being trained in Manila. Two medical technologists from WVMC were flown to Manila over the weekend to begin their training at RITM.

“The facility and all its protocols are now in place. We already started testing as early as yesterday. We are looking at a turnover of between 24 to 72 hours to receive test results per batch,” Juanico told Rappler in a phone interview.

A primer set of 100 test kits had already been sent to Iloilo ahead of the accreditation. Juanico said a single kit can test up to 10 specimens.

DOH-Region VI said they were hoping for a faster turnover of the testing kits. Prior to the opening of the lab in WVMC, the region’s medical frontliners had to wait around 5 to 6 days for results to be sent back to them from the RITM.

This was because the lab struggled with a surge in the number of pending tests, coupled with the difficulty in transporting specimens from Iloilo to Manila due to Luzon’s lockdown.

Juanico said the WVMC test hub already ran a first batch of 8 new specimens on Tuesday, March 24, and results are expected by late Thursday, March 26. 

A second batch of 20 specimens is already on queue for testing at the new test hub.

But even as Western Visayas’ lab opens, the tests for 44 persons under investigation (PUIs) in the region are still pending at the RITM in Manila. Juanico said the last shipment of specimens was sent to Manila last Sunday, March 22, and has yet to come back.

As of Wednesday, Western Visayas has a total of 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Two cases are from Iloilo, one from Bacolod, and another from Capiz province. Nationwide, the country has a total of 636 confirmed cases, with 38 deaths and 26 recoveries. – Rappler.com