MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced on Monday, May 4, that the government planned to put up 4 mega swabbing centers in Metro Manila and Bulacan to increase the country’s coronavirus testing capacity.
Vergeire gave the update in a press briefing, saying the DOH was working with the Department of Transportation and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to have sites operational in the following areas:
Once operational, Vergeire said 5,000 tests can be conducted daily.
Vergeire said according to BCDA President and chief executive officer Vince Dizon, the sites are scheduled to open within the week.
Dizon, who was earlier named the deputy chief implementer of the government's COVID-19 response, was also named by Malacañang on Monday as the country’s “test, trace, and treat czar.”
Why this matters. The DOH had earlier aimed to conduct some 8,000 tests daily by the end of April, it had only been able to conduct a little over half of its target – around 4,900 – as of April 28.
Despite not being able to reach its target, Vergeire said the country was aiming to conduct an even higher number of tests – 30,000 daily – by May 31. To achieve this, among the measures DOH employed, Vergeire said, was to tap lab encoders to quicken the release of coronavirus test results.
Aside from this, Vergeire said the Department of Science and Technology also put up some 132 specimen collection booths in over 80 health facilities to ensure the protection of health workers.
The government earlier announced it was launching its expanded coronavirus testing program, where health workers and individuals considered "at risk" of contracting the disease will be prioritized in testing.
Since the start of the outbreak, the Philippines has struggled to increase its testing capacity with limited number of labs equipped to process results. The Philippines is among the countries in Southeast Asia that conducted the least number tests.
Health experts earlier said it was crucial the Philippines conduct more tests to gain a timely and accurate understanding the extent of the disease's spread in the county.
Latest numbers showed 9,485 confirmed cases in the Philippines as of Monday, including 623 deaths and 1,315 recoveries. – Rappler.com