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.
“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:
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:
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.
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.