MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health on Friday said it was hoping to run 3,000 COVID-19 tests a day by mid-April and 8,000 tests daily by the end of the month, following strong public clamor for mass testing.
“We are confident that our laboratories can do a total of 3,000 tests a day by April 14,” said Dr. Beverly Ho, special assistant to the health secretary, during a televised DOH briefing.
The 3,000 tests per day is based on Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.’s statement that the country could start mass testing by April 14. Galvez is the chief implementer at the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19.
“Our expected capacity by end of April is at least 8,000 tests per day,” Ho added.
However, the health official explained that mass testing would be for symptomatic patients and vulnerable populations such as the elderly and health care workers.
She said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is already processing 1,000 tests a day and it expects to reach 2,000 tests daily in the coming days.
The RITM has been able to process more tests with the arrival of additional test kits and the utilization of other laboratories.
On the other hand, the 7 other laboratories are able to process a total of 500 tests a day. The other subnational laboratories are at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, San Lazaro Hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center, the UP National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), the Lung Center of the Philippines, and the Western Visayas Medical Center.
Ho said the DOH is also training additional medical technicians so that the accredited laboratories can run more shifts per day.
“The test kits produced by UP is also expected to get marketing authorization as soon as they submit their results to FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” she said.
Around 120,000 UP-NIH test kits are expected to be released with the FDA approval. Of that number, 26,000 will be given to the subnational laboratories. The others will be sold commercially to hospitals and donors.
The locally-made test kits will make it easier for the health sector to run more tests.
Ho said more laboratories are expected to be accredited in the coming days.
Despite this, the DOH reminded the public that mass testing will not allow just anyone to be tested.
“Yes we will test and test and test but the WHO (World Health Organization) also said test the suspected cases or those who need it and not every single one of us,” Ho said.
Vice President Leni Robredo's camp welcomed the announcement, urging the health department to implement the mass testing "as soon as possible and to ensure that an adequate number of tests, in the areas that are most vulnerable, will be made available."
"... We stand ready to help in any way we can to support this crucial initiative of the national government," Barry Gutierrez, Robredo's counsel, said in a statement.