‘Massive testing’ of coronavirus PUMs, PUIs to start April 14 – Galvez

JC Gotinga
The objective is to identify possible carriers of the virus and bring them to ‘forced quarantine facilities’ like stadiums and convention halls

TRIAGE. The National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City conducts triage at the hospital's compound to evaluate and categorize patients on March 29, 2020. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The government plans to begin “massive testing” of persons under monitoring (PUM) and patients under investigation (PUI) for the novel coronavirus on April 14, National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr said on Thursday evening, April 2.

The objective, Galvez said, is to identify as many carriers of the virus as possible and isolate them in what he called “forced quarantine facilities” such as stadiums and convention halls, in order to slow down the spread of the disease. (READ: LIST: National coronavirus quarantine centers)

“We are also determined to fast-track the accreditation of subnational laboratories so we can start the massive testing of PUIs and PUMs. We expect that by April 14, we shall be able to start massive testing. This will allow us to identify the COVID-19 carriers, [to] isolate and treat them,” Galvez said in a televised briefing.

The NTF is preparing a number of large venues to serve as national quarantine centers for PUIs and COVID-19 patients with only mild symptoms, so that hospitals may be freed up for coronavirus cases with severe symptoms.

The government expects at least two venues to be ready by April 10: the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

The country so far has 8 accredited full-scale testing centers for the novel coronavirus:

  • Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), Muntinlupa City
  • San Lazaro Hospital, Manila
  • Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Baguio City
  • Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu City
  • Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao City
  • University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, Manila
  • Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon City
  • Western Visayas Medical Center, Iloilo City

The recent arrival of some 168,000 test kits from China, Singapore, and South Korea is expected to boost the Philippines’ capacity to test PUMs and PUIs. (READ: When should you get tested for coronavirus?)

A PUI is someone who has two or all of the following: 

  • History of travel in the past 14 days to countries with local transmissions and risk of importation of the virus
  • History of exposure to a confirmed case
  • Symptoms of respiratory illness (cough and/or colds) and/or fever

Meanwhile, a PUM is someone who has a history of travel to a virus-hit country or exposure to a coronavirus patient.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Department of Health has recorded 1,154 PUIs and 6,321 PUMs in the country.

Galvez said the government will begin moving possible COVID-19 patients to the national quarantine centers as soon as the venues are ready, which he estimates by mid-April.

That would coincide with the scheduled lifting of the “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown of Luzon and Metro Manila.

Galvez said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body behind the NTF, has yet to decide whether the lockdown would be extended.

As of Thursday, the Philippines has recorded 2,633 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 107 deaths and 51 recoveries. – Rappler.com