MANILA - The head of the Philippines' response to the COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday said government is looking at mass testing as the next move in efforts to stop the spread of the infectious disease.
Speaking to ANC Thursday, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer at the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19, said there should be mass testing of patients under investigation (PUI) and persons under monitoring (PUM) so they can be isolated from the rest of the population.
He said government is fast-tracking the accreditation of more laboratories with coronavirus testing capability to start massive testing of PUIs and PUMs.
We expect that by April 14, we shall be able to start massive testing," he said in a press briefing Thursday night.
"We first need to contain the spread of the virus, that's why we conducted a lockdown, social distancing and also segregation of those vulnerable. The next step is we have to have mass testing of the PUIs and PUMs so that we can isolate and treat those who are infected with the disease," he said.
Luzon has been on lockdown since March 17. The quarantine is set to end on April 12.
"In this strategy, we have to have the mass testing capability of the DOH that's why they already accredited a lot of hospitals and at the same time we are now scaling up our conversion for mass quarantine center like the World Trade Center, the PICC and also we're looking about the Philippine Arena and the Rizal Memorial Stadium and we're looking forward to some floating ships," Galvez added.
Galvez also said they are coordinating with the Department of Health (COH) to make this possible.
"We are pushing for the DOH to have that kind of massive testing, at least the rate is, we have at least 2,000 to 3,000 (per day). For now I think their capability is only 1,000 and now we have more than 20,000 PUIs and PUMs that need to be tested," he explained.
Galvez also advised everyone to wear masks when going out, adding that there will be 6 million masks soon available for public use.
He added that 14,000 sets of personal protective equipment arrived Thursday and will be distributed to hospitals with the highest number of COVID-19 patients. This is the second batch of delivery from the 1 million PPEs procured by the government.
The first batch, with 15,000 sets, arrived Wednesday and have already been distributed to hospitals.
Such protective gear, much needed by frontline health workers, have been scant, with many resorting to improvised equipment.
As of Thursday, the Philippines has a total of 2,633 COVID-19 cases, with 107 fatalities and 51 recoveries.
The country is on its third week of a lockdown in Luzon, where most cases have been confirmed. The enhanced community quarantine restricted residents to remain in their homes, and suspended school, public transport and work, except for basic services.