Singapore will donate thousands of testing kits the Philippines to aid health officials in responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said on Sunday, March 22.
Locsin made the announcement on Twitter, saying Singapore pledged to donate 3,000 coronavirus testing kits and one PCR machine, which is needed process the kits and look for the virus’ genetic material.
"Thank you so much. Memoing the President about this right now," Locsin said.
Additional test kits are expected to aid health workers in testing more people for COVID-19.
On Saturday, March 21, the Department of Health (DOH) said that the country's accredited testing centers so far have an average testing capacity of up to 1,000 per day, with the bulk coming from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). For now, the tests will be limited to severe and vulnerable cases, the DOH said.
Criticism has mounted over the Philippines’ limited testing capacity, as scientists urged the government to conduct mass testing for the disease. (READ: Filipino scientists call on government to conduct mass testing for coronavirus)
The World Health Organization earlier urged countries to test "every suspected case" of coronavirus, as this was the "backbone" of response to the pandemic. This was seen in South Korea, which has managed to control the spread of the disease through massive testing efforts.
The test kits from Singapore, another country hailed for its handling of the disease, adds to additional test kits given by China and South Korea.
But on Sunday, March 22, Singapore has also announced that starting Monday, March 23, it will impose a ban on all tourists as the number of imported coronavirus cases increased. (READ: Singapore bans all tourists as imported coronavirus cases rise)
The Philippine Food and Drug Administration has approved 4 coronavirus test kits for commercial use.
Meanwhile, the test kits developed by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) would take some 2 or 3 weeks to be validated.
The Philippines has counted at least 380 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Saturday night, March 21. Among these cases, 25 have died while 15 have recovered. (READ: PH confirms 73 new coronavirus cases)
The global death toll due to the disease has surpassed 11,000 while over 271,600 people were infected with COVID-19 across 164 countries. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.