MANILA--The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Saturday said it has acquired laboratory machines that could help expand the country's testing capacity related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The non-profit organization is planning to begin its mass testing for persons with coronavirus symptoms in Quezon City this Wednesday, Sen. Richard Gordon said.
Using 2 reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines, the PRC can process nearly 3,000 tests per day, added the lawmaker, also the group's chairman.
"We are already ordering 5 more testing machines. So expect more machines to arrive," Gordon said in an interview with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap).
The RT-PCR machines are considered by health authorities as the gold standard in detecting the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
On March 28, the Department of Health (DOH) and World Health Organization (WHO) visited the COVID-19 testing center of the PRC to ensure it was at par with medical standards.
The Quezon City government will shoulder the cost of the mass testing, Gordon said. The city has so far recorded 476 COVID-19 cases, the most among Metro Manila local government units.
The PRC also acquired negative pressure ambulances, which are set to arrive on April 11, Gordon said.
This type of ambulance can safely transfer infected patients to health facilities, he added.
"I worry about Navotas, Tondo, Malabon. This is really a wake-up call to move people to Central or Southern Luzon and develop the countryside," he said.
"Once people are tested, it could possibly go by the tens of thousands."
With infections showing no signs of tapering off, Gordon called on the national government to extend the Luzon-wide lockdown.
"I don't think we should be reckless. We have gains, but I don't think it's sufficient. Maybe for another 2 weeks," he said.
"Just take it slowly. Open certain companies that are essential to the community. Enforce distancing rules. Make sure everyone has mask when they go out."