DOH: COVID-19 labs have backlog of over 12,000 tests as cases rise

Bonz Magsambol

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The Department of Health also says limited testing supplies and expanded testing protocol contributed to the backlog

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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday, July 10, that COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country have a backlog of 12,208 tests.

During a virtual press briefing on Friday morning, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the backlog is due to the arrival of more specimens that “overwhelmed” newly-opened laboratories.

“Ang backlogs natin ngayon medyo lumaki – 12,208 testing backlogs. May malaking contributors dito katulad ng mga laboratoryo na kakabukas lang and they got overwhelmed noong dumating ang mga sample sa kanila,” Vergeire said. 

(Our backlogs now have increased a bit – 12,208 testing backlogs. There are big contributors here, like the newly-opened laboratories and they got overwhelmed when they received the samples.)

Vergeire said that the laboratories are now accepting limited samples so they could address the backlog. 

Limited supplies, expanded testing

According to Vergeire, limited testing supplies and expanded testing protocol also contributed to the rising backlog. (READ: EXPLAINER: What to expect from the Philippines’ expanded coronavirus testing)

“Ang iba naman this is still because of supplies na kailangan natin at ‘yung iba naman ay dahil sa maraming samples na dumadating ngayon dahil nag-expand tayo ng protocol (Others are still because of the lack of supplies and the surge of samples that arrived due to expanded testing protocol),” Vergeire said. 

To address the backlog, Vergeire said the DOH has already identified zones for local testing centers and hospitals, where samples can be processed. (READ: FAST FACTS: How gov’t coronavirus labs manage test samples)

“When we see that a laboratory is experiencing problems, like backlogs, we can seek the help of a nearby laboratory so that it can share the burden of these tests that are being processed,” Vergeire said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The government was able to decrease the backlog in late June to only 3,608, but it rose again in early July.

As of July 8, the country has 80 licensed testing hubs. The country’s testing capacity hovered around 16,000 to 21,000 this week – still below the government’s 30,000 testing capacity target in May.

The country has so far tested 845,434 individuals out of the government’s total target of two million or 2% of the country’s 110 million population.

On Wednesday, July 8, the DOH reported 2,539 cases of the disease – the highest single-day increase so far. On Thursday, the Philippines recorded 1,395 cases, bringing the total cases in the country to 51, 574, including 1,314 deaths and 12,813 recoveries. 

The country has had 7 consecutive days of over 1,000 new cases reported in a day. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.