RITM urges 'utmost diligence' in setting up coronavirus testing centers

MANILA, Philippines – The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on Thursday, March 26, urged local government units and private laboratories to "exercise utmost diligence" in setting up coronavirus testing centers.

In a statement sent to media, RITM Director Celia Carlos said that they "appreciate all parties who expressed their intention to establish their own COVID-19 testing centers."

However, Carlos noted that "we should remain meticulous in observing good laboratory practices and biosafety protocols recommended by the World Health Organization. Not all laboratories can be COVID-19 testing centers."

RITM is the health department's research arm based in Muntinlupa.

On Thursday, the Department of Health (DOH) disapproved Marikina City's testing center because it didn't meet biosafety level 2 requirements. 

According to the DOH, the testing facility should be located outside of the Marikina City health office "so that cross-infection is minimized and less foot traffic will be observed for the protection of your staff and constituents as a whole."

Must-haves

RITM said that testing laboratories "must be capable of performing molecular diagnostics in terms of infrastructure, personnel, apparatus, and quality assurance."

RITM listed down 4 must-haves for a facility to be accredited. 

1. Laboratory facility

For a facility to be a Biosafety Laboratory 2, it should have at least 3 rooms:

2. Personnel competence

According to RITM, the personnel who will perform the procedure must be a graduate of any 4-year science course and have training and skills on PCR testing and biosafety practices. Biochemical engineers should also be available inside the laboratory to support operations.

3. Quality assurance

The laboratory must have quality assurance protocols that ensure accurate and reliable results.

4. Equipment requirements and maintenance

"The virus we look for in all samples we receive is highly contagious, hence, COVID-19 testing is done in laboratories with complex systems and strict biosafety measures," Carlos added. 

Currently, the Philippines has the capacity to conduct 950 to 1,000 tests per day, with the bulk coming from the RITM which can conduct an average of 600 tests per day.

As of Thursday, the country has 707 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 45 deaths and 28 recoveries. – Rappler.com 

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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