Gov’t eyes mass testing for coronavirus by April 14

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    SD Biosensor, a company in South Korea, is making 350,000 test kits a day. The PH is seen as a hub for testing kit manufacture. (Photo: Ed Jones/AFP)

    GOVERNMENT is targeting to start conducting mass testing on April 14 to separate persons who are infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs).

    Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., concurrent implementer of the National Action Plan on the COVID-19, said government is also expediting the accreditation of laboratories that will process the COVID tests, and the identification and preparation of quarantine sites where the PUIs and PUMs may be quarantined.

    “On massive testing for PUIs and PUMs, we are also determined to fast-track the accreditation of substantial laboratories so we can start with the mass testing of the PUIs and PUMs. We expect that by April 14, we should be able to start massive testing,” he said in a briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.

    Galvez earlier recommended mass testing and isolation of the patients who are positive so they can be treated, and for monitoring of the PUIs and PUMs so they would not be able to infect others in case they later test positive for the coronavirus.

    Earlier Thursday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced that all four designated COVID-19 referral hospitals are now accepting patients while the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) said three of nine quarantine and treatment facilities will soon be ready to accommodate PUIs.

    Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, concurrent IATF-EID spokesman, said of the nine, the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila will be ready by April 10 and the World Trade Center, also in Pasay City, on April 12.

    Nograles said the PICC, which is being prepared by the Department of Public Works and Highways with the help of EEI Corporation, will have 700 beds while the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex that is being readied by PRIME – BMD Group will have 600 beds. The World Trade Center that is being set up by ICCP and Ayala or Makati Development Corporation will have 650 beds.

    “Together, these three structures can accommodate a total of 1,950 individuals. Salamat po sa ating mga private sector partners sa tulong at pagmamalasakit ninyo. (Together, these three structures can accommodate a total of 1,950 individuals. Thank you to our private sector partners for your help and compassion),” Nograles said.

    He said government has identified six more areas that can be used as isolation or quarantine sites, namely the Quezon Institute, the Amoranto Stadium, the Quezon Memorial Circle Complex, and Veterans Medical Center Complex all in Quezon City; the ULTRA sports complex in Pasig City; and the Duty-Free Philippines complex in Parañaque City.

    He said other sites are being assessed by the DPWH.

     REFERRAL HOSPITALS

     Duque said the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, one of the four referral centers, is now handling 22 patients positive for COVID-19 and 29 PUIs. It has allotted 40 beds for the COVID patients and PUIs.

    The Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (DJNRMH) has 14 confirmed cases and 13 PUIs, he said.

    The Philippine General Hospital started operating as a COVID-19 referral center on March 30. It has allotted 130 beds.

    Duque said the Quezon Institute in Quezon City still has no COVID-19 case. “We expect the QI to be ready to accept patients by Monday. They now have three triaging tents set up,” he said.

     PPE FOR HEALTH WORKERS

     With the referral hospitals now operating, Duque assured health workers of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to be distributed by the government.

    Of the initial 15,000 PPE sets already acquired by the DOH, Duque said the Lung Center has received 2,800 sets, the PGH 2,000 sets, and the

    DJNRMH 2,590 sets.

    “We would like to assure them that we are coming up with ways to protect them and to recognize the valuable work that they do. We are deeply grateful for their heroic efforts,” he said.

    Other recipients of the first tranche of PPE sets are the AFP Medical Center (1,100 sets), East Avenue Medical Center (770 sets), and San Lazaro Hospital (2,780 sets).

    “Some 985,000 sets are still expected to arrive as the DOH continuously works with other government agencies and the private sector to transport them to the Philippines,” said Duque.

    The Mandaluyong City government set up a makeshift hospital for PUI residents.

    Mayor Menchie Abalos said the facility located at the City Hall compound can accommodate 30 patients. It has a mobile laboratory, x-ray, ventilators, and other medical equipment.

    The city disaster risk reduction management office has also set up a personnel decontamination tent at the Mandaluyong medical center. — With Gerard Naval and Christian Oineza