The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday, March 31, appealed to licensed COVID-19 testing centers in the country to continue their operations during the Holy Week to ensure the uninterrupted monitoring of the pandemic situation.
In a virtual press briefing on Wednesday morning, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the DOH has already sent a memorandum to all of its regional units to make sure that there is a "continuity of operations of all our laboratories" this Holy Week.
"Nakikiusap po kami sa ating lahat ng (We appeal to all of our) laboratories, because of this increase in the number of cases we are experiencing, we implore to all our labs, please [do] not close your laboratories this coming holiday season," she said.
"Kailangan lang po tayong bukas para magkaroon lang po tayo ng tuloy-tuloy na pag-momonitor ng mga kasong pumapasok (You need to remain open to ensure the uninterrupted monitoring of the COVID-19 case)," Vergeire added.
To date, the country has at least 239 licensed testing centers for COVID-19.
The country has been reporting over 9,000 cases for 5 straight days, with 9,296 new infections on Wednesday. This brings the country's total caseload to 741,181.
In March alone, at least 164,829 new cases have been reported, excluding duplicates removed by the DOH. This is already more than the combined 144,722 new cases reported from December 2020 to February 2021.
The government does not have any plan to conduct mass testing even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Vergeire said.
She said what the government has been doing is "risk-based" testing, where local government units would do house-to-house visits to identify those who have COVID-19 symptoms, test them, and isolate them immediately if found positive.
After lawmakers flagged the government's counting system for COVID-19 cases as leading to underreporting, the DOH said on Tuessday that it would include antigen tests in the "NCR Plus" area of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite in the national count.
Prior to the DOH's announcement, the government only included COVID-19 cases confirmed through the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) – the gold standard in testing – in its national count. Positive antigen tests need confirmatory RT-PCR testing before being counted. – Rappler.com