MANILA - Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday donated 6,000 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing kits to 4 hospitals in Mindanao, saying other regions should not be "held back" from mass testing against the highly-contagious disease.
The COVID-19 test kits were given to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center, Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City, Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City, and the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
"Kung sa Metro Manila lang tayo mag-focus, hindi natin matatalo itong COVID," Zubiri, a coronavirus survivor, said in a statement.
"The longer we hold other regions back from massive testing, the higher the chances that the virus will continue to spread there, even with community quarantine," said the senator whose family originally hails from Bukidnon.
The test kits sent to Mindanao "can be used without testing laboratories," Zubiri said.
"I know the gold standard of testing for COVID-19 are the PCR test kits, like those we donated to Philippine General Hospital. But in the absence of accredited laboratories across the country, these rapid test kits will have to do for now," he said.
"This is one of my biggest frustrations, as there is only one accredited laboratory in Mindanao, located in Davao City and nowhere else at the moment," he said.
Zubiri joined calls for the Department of Health to "cut the bureaucratic red tape" and establish more coronavirus testing centers nationwide.
"So many nurses, doctors, hospital workers back home have reached out to me, asking if there's a way we can help them. Nasa frontlines sila araw-araw, risking their own well being for us, and yet they can't get tested because of a shortage of kits," the senator said.
"It's disheartening. I hope some of the test kits that we're sending out can be allocated for our health workers, so they can continue with their noble duty to our people," he said.
As of April 14, the DOH said it has been testing about 3,000 COVID-19 patients per day. The tests remain concentrated in Luzon, which is still under a lockdown.