COVID-19 test kits donated by Jack Ma to undergo validation first: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2020 08:15 AM | Updated as of Mar 29 2020 10:26 AM

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MANILA - The COVID-19 test kits donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma will have to undergo evaluation and validation within a week or so before it can be used, an infectious disease expert said Sunday.

The country received some 57,600 test kits from the Alibaba founder, which were distributed equally to the University of the Philippines Philippine General Hospital and the San Lazaro Hospital, according to the latter's adult infectious diseases chief Dr. Rontgene Solante.

These were not the same type as some test kits donated by China that only had 40 percent accuracy, Solante said.

The ones donated by the Chinese billionaire are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and not antibody test kits, which is inaccurate as it would only produce a positive result when a person's antibodies reach a certain threshold, according to Solante.

PCR test kits require a machine and personnel with expertise to interpret its result.

"This is the regular type. You need to have a biosafety level type of molecular diagnostic laboratory," Solante told ANC about the kits donated by Ma.

"The complexity of the test is you also need to do it in an environment where you will not be contaminated."

The San Lazaro Hospital's manpower to process COVID-19 tests is "limited," Solante said.

"We only have 2 or 3 who will process the tests," he said.

"The only advantage is that instead of sending it to RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine), we can process it here and we can also unload the number of tests RITM is getting."

Solante said the hospital's priority is its admitted patients and referrals. As of posting, it can process 40 COVID-19 tests daily, he added.

"I hope, every week we can increase that by 20. Hopefully, we can get 80-100 tests a day," he said.

As of Saturday, the Philippines has recorded 1,075 cases of COVID-19, with 68 deaths and 35 recoveries, according to DOH.

The country also received donated COVID-19 test kits and related machines from Singapore.