China to donate more coronavirus testing kits, protective equipment to PH

China will donate thousands of testing kits, protective equipment, and masks to the Philippines to aid frontline workers in responding to the novel coronavirus, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said on Wednesday, March 18.

Locsin made the announcement on Twitter, saying Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi informed him that China has allotted 100,000 testing kits, 10,000 N95 masks, 10,000 personal protective equipment sets, and 100,000 surgical masks for the country.

"Notifying DOH. Notifying Customs of perishability of kits and imperative of cold temperature. Thank you, my brother," Locsin tweeted on Wednesday.

Locsin said China would transport the items through a chartered flight, though it was unclear when the donations would arrive.

"I am asked to please alert Customs to let donation through pronto – and the rest of the bureaucracy not to throw a monkey wrench," he added.

Locsin had earlier said that masks and protective equipment were supposedly stuck at the Bureau of Customs warehouses, prompting the finance department to clarify that the delays were due to suppliers, not the BOC.

China earlier donated 2,000 "high-tech fast test kits" while Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said another 10,000 such kits were expected to arrive on Wednesday.

Additional test kits are expected to aid health workers in testing more people for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The Philippines’ testing capacity is currently limited as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa – the country's main testing hub – can only test some 300 people daily.

With the lack of test kits, health officials rationed available kits to more urgent cases or patients who were showing more severe symptoms of the disease.

The World Health Organization earlier urged countries to test "every suspected case" of coronavirus, as this was the "backbone" of response to the pandemic.

The Philippines has recorded at least 193 cases of the coronavirus, including 14 deaths. The confirmed cases include 7 recoveries.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier declared a state of calamity in the Philippines as cases of COVID-19 continued to increase.

Worldwide, the death toll due to the disease surpassed 7,800 cases while over 189,600 people were infected across 146 countries. More than 68,000 have since recovered from the coronavirus. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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