— With Jocelyn Montemayor
THE Department of Health on Sunday said test kits for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) donated by the Chinese government are “at par” with those provided by the World Health Organization.
The clarification was issued after China reacted to a statement from Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire who on Saturday said the test kits from China showed an accuracy rate of only 40 percent.
“In the initial test kits from China, they showed 40 percent accuracy. We decided not to use them because of the low accuracy rate. We just opted to stockpile them,” Vergeire said in a Saturday in a press briefing.
China said it “firmly rejects any irresponsible remarks” concerning their assistance in the Philippines’ battle against the epidemic.
The DOH, in a statement Sunday, said the 102,000 COVID-19 testing kits from China are not the ones referred to as lacking accuracy.
“The initial 2,000 BGI RT-PCR test kits and the 100,000 Sansure RT-PCR test kits donated by the Chinese government have been assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) to be at par with test kits provided by the World Health Organization after parallel testing were done,” said the DOH.
“The DOH apologizes for any confusion that previously issued statements have caused,” it added.
According to the DOH, the kits that were lacking accuracy is actually a “proposed donation” by a private foundation.
“The test kits mentioned during the press briefing by the Department last 28 March 2020 referred to another brand of test kit that was proposed to be donated by a private foundation,” said the health department.
It said upon preliminary review of its documents by the RITM, subsequent validation was found to be necessary. This, then, prompted both parties to agree to use BGI and Sansure RT-PCR test kits for subsequent donations, the DOH said.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, concurrent spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said Sunday all COVID-19 testing kits used in hospitals nationwide are consistent with WHO standards.
He said all testing kits, whether donated by charitable organizations or given by foreign government, are first vetted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine before these are approved and used by the government.
He said even the 2,000 BGI RT-PCR test kits and 100,000 Sansure RT-PCR test kits donated by the Chinese government also underwent vetting by the RITM.
Aside from China, the Philippines also received testing kits and supplies from Brunei, South Korea, Singapore and private groups like the Udenna Foundation from South Korea.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs are discussing with the Chinese government the idea of importing medical experts from China.
“We have observed that since March 18, there have been no local transmission cases in China, and we want to replicate their actions in solving the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Vergeire.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Saturday said he asked the Chinese ambassador to “send us Chinese doctors” but the DOH is “blocking their arrival.”