HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday defended his department’s purchase of 1 million sets of personal protection equipment (PPE), worth P1.8 billion, for the use of health workers who are at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Duque, in his Twitter account, said a PPE set costs P1,800 each because eight items are included per set — coveralls, N95 masks, gloves, head cover, shoe cover, goggles, surgical masks, and surgical gown.
“The set we procured is composed of 8 items. It is the reason why it reached that amount,” said Duque (@SecDuque).
Duque’s statement was in response to Sen. Grace Poe who asked the DOH to explain the cost. She said a PPE set costs only P400 to P1,000.
Duque said he is open to recommendations. “If you know a supplier of lower priced but quality and complete PPE, we ask you to let us know,” he said.
The first tranche of 15,000 PPE sets arrived in the country on Tuesday night. The remaining 985,000 sets are scheduled to arrive between April 6 and 24.
The DOH said PPE sets “will undergo thorough inspection and quality assurance before being distributed.”
The first batch is set to be brought to six COVID-19 referral hospitals, namely East Avenue Medical Center , San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center.
For hospitals and other healthcare facilities needing PPE supplies, the DOH said these are being advised to send in requests via email to [email protected].
A number of hospitals and health care workers have been complaining of having dwindling supplies of PPE.
RAPID TEST KITS
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire advised the public not to patronize rapid test kits being sold online.
“We must not trust unauthorized sellers of these rapid test kits,” she said.
She said the rapid test kits will have to be administered by health workers and not by lay people, and “inside health facilities and hospitals with the guidance of a doctor.”
Vergeire issued the reminder after the DOH and the Food and Drug Administration monitored the presence of rapid test kits being offered in online selling platforms.
It came right after the FDA announced the approval of the use of five rapid test kits for COVID-19 last Monday.
The FDA-approved rapid test kits are Nanjing Vazyme 2019-nCov IgG/IgM Detection Kit of Biolidics Limited from Singapore; Novel Coronavirus (2019 NCOV) IgM/IgG Antibody Detection Kit Colloidal Gold Method of Nanjing Vazyme Medical Technology Co. Ltd. from Nanjing, China; Diagnostic Kit for IgM/IgG Antibody to Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Colloidal Gold of Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostic Inc. from Guangdong, China; 2019-nCOV Antibody Test (Colloidal Gold) Innovita (Tangshan) of Biological Technology Co., Ltd. from Hebei, China; and SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test (Lateral Flow Method of Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Co. Ltd. from Guangzhou, China.
Late Tuesday, the FDA said it has approved a sixth kit — Wantai SARS-CoV Ab Rapid Test Kit of the Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co., Ltd. of Beijing, China.
The Bureau of Customs has issued an administrative order to expedite customs clearance of tax and duty-exempt importations of PPE and medical goods.
The BOC said importers of PPE and medical equipment and supplies for commercial purposes are now exempted from presenting the Certificate of Product Notification or Certificate of Product Registration issued by the FDA prior to release from the bureau, provided that they present a copy of their License to Operate and proof of application for product notification with the FDA.
Those importing ventilators, respirators and their respective accessories for commercial purposes only need to present a copy of their LTO.
Imported health products for donation, which are certified by regulatory agencies or accredited third-party organizations in the originating countries, will be automatically cleared, while an FDA clearance will not be required prior to release of foreign donations of PPEs, ventilators, respirators and their respective accessories which will be used in treating COVID-19 patients.
Imported goods under Section 4(O) of the Republic Act 11469, otherwise known as the “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act,” which are released under provisional goods declaration, are subject to the submission of “Tax Exemption Indorsement” issued by the Department of Finance-Revenue Office after April 12, 2020 or upon lifting of the declaration of enhanced community quarantine, whichever comes earlier.
“In relation to this order, the Bureau of Internal Revenue issued Revenue Memorandum Order 10-2020 in which Authority to Release Imported Goods is no longer required for importations of PPE and medical emergency supplies,” the BOC said. — With Angela Lorraine Celis