MANILA - The Philippines could have expanded its COVID-19 testing earlier than it did, Malacañang said Thursday as it admitted that the country saw a lull in detecting the respiratory disease.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government could have immediately expanded the country's COVID-19 testing capability after it confirmed the first case of the disease back on Jan. 30.
“Inaamin po natin na medyo naging mabagal ‘yung pagproseso na lumipas po ang dalawang buwan, iisa lang po ang ating testing facility, ang RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine)," he said in a Palace press briefing.
(We admit that our processing for the first two months were a bit slow. We only had one testing facility, RITM.)
"Marso pa lang tayo nagsimula na magkaroon ng mas marami pang laboratories,” he added.
(We only added more laboratories in March.)
The first reported COVID-19 case in the Philippines was a woman from China, where the outbreak of the disease originated.
It was only in March that the government started to accredit more laboratories for COVID-19 testing, the same month it placed the entire island of Luzon under strict lockdown to control the transmission of the disease.
“If I were to look back and what we could have done better siguro po, noong nagkaroon tayo ng unang kaso ng imported case ng COVID, eh dapat pinalawak na natin ‘yung ating testing capacity kaagad,” Roque said.
(Maybe when we had our first imported case of COVID, we should have expanded our testing capability immediately.)
"Pero nakita niyo naman po, mabilis din po natin napataas ang numbers ng ating mga laboratories," he added.
(But as you can see, we were able to accredit more laboratories immediately.)
The Philippines already has the capacity to run over 50,000 tests for COVID-19 per day but the country has yet to maximize this.
On average, the country only runs some 14,000 COVID-19 tests per day, according to the Department of Health.
The Philippines has so far recorded 51,754 coronavirus cases as of Thursday. The Department of Health said COVID-19 testing now averages over 19,000 daily.