UP health institute eyed as coronavirus testing hub: Health chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2020 02:44 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2020 03:43 PM

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MANILA - The Philippine health department said Sunday it was considering tapping the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health in Manila as a testing center for potential cases of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City is currently the country's lone facility that tests oral and nasal swabs from potential coronavirus patients nationwide.

"Baka itong darating na linggo... iyong UP-NIH iyan na iyong tinitingnan nating susunod na magkakaroon ng kakayahan magsuri ng swabs," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told DZMM. 

(Perhaps this week, we will look at giving UP-NIH the capacity to test swabs.) 

Established in 1998, the UP-NIH is "a network of various research and extension units specializing in health and socio-biomedical concerns," it said in its website.

Duque said that to provide support to RITM, five facilities in different parts of the countries are being prepared as "sub-national reference laboratories."

Two of these laboratories are in Metro Manila, while one each is in Cebu, Davao and Northern Luzon.

The health department on Saturday confirmed the country's 6th case of the novel coronavirus and its local transmission

A swab to be used for testing novel coronavirus is seen in the supplies of Harborview Medical Center's home assessment team during preparations to visit the home of a person potentially exposed to novel coronavirus at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, US Feb. 29, 2020. David Ryder, Reuters

There is a "global shortage" of re-agents, materials and chemicals needed to test potential COVID-19 cases, said Duque. 

Only those with coughs and colds who recently traveled abroad or were from an area where there is localized transmission of COVID-19 should be tested for the pathogen, he said. 
 
"Hindi ka puwedeng mag-test nang kaliwa't kanan... kundi mauubusanan ka at iyong mga taong dapat ma-test mo, wala ka nang pang-test dahil kung sino-sino na lang pinagbigyan mo," he said. 

(You can't do tests left and right. Otherwise, you'll run out of materials for people who really need to be tested because you said yes to just anybody who wanted to tested.) 

"Sino bang may ayaw i-test lahat? Kung puwede nga lang, i-test mo ang 100 milyong Pilipino, pero the reality on the ground is hindi kaya. 
 
(Who doesn't want to test everyone? If it's only possible, it's good to test all 100 million Filipino, but the reality on the ground is it's not feasible.)

Across the world, there have been almost 105,000 COVID-19 cases recorded in 95 countries and territories with 3,556 deaths, as of Sunday.

The spread of the virus "can be significantly slowed or even reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities," said the World Health Organization. With a report from Agence France-Presse 

DZMM, March 8, 2020