By Ellson Quismorio
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City has more than enough test kits to last the current 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) episode, said Dr. Rossana Ditangco of the Department of Health (DOH) said.
The infectious disease expert served as a resource speaker during Wednesday’s joint hearing by the House Committees on Economic Affairs and on Tourism discussing the economic impact of the virus outbreak.
“We have enough kits, in fact we are expecting another 1,500 kits coming from WHO (World Health Organization),” Ditangco told Iloilo 4th district Rep. Braeden John Biron, who asked about the availability of the test kits.
“We have 1,500 [test kits] in our institution (RITM). That’s more than enough with the current PUIs (persons under investigation),” she said.
The fresh shipment of kits from the WHO will arrive in the coming days, she added. This will bring to 3,000 the total of test kits on standby.
Biron wondered why the test kits haven’t been distributed to the different airports of the country despite its supposed abundance. According to him, this would facilitate more tourist visits to the country amid the persisting COVID-19 scare.
“The kits require a special laboratory. That’s why we have to develop or reinforce the sub-national laboratories. These sub-national laboratories in fact are capable of doing this,” Ditangco said.
“We just need to strengthen them again because it’s been a while since they performed these tests for an outbreak,” she noted.
Ditangco clarified before the solons that as a rule, persons undergoing the 14-day quarantine period aren’t tested.
“We only test people who are symptomatic and these are the PUIs. So we have to determine whether they have the disease or not by doing the test.”
Likewise, people under monitoring or PUMs are not tested. “They are observed for appearance of signs and symptoms.”
“It should be within 14 days. If it’s past 14 days, you did not develop symptoms, it means you did not acquire the illness,” the DOH expert explained.
For his part, Muntinlupa lone district Rep. Ruffy Biazon lauded the efforts of the RITM in the face of the COVID-19 threat.
“I have full faith in the facilities of RITM. Wala kaming kinakatakutan (we have nothing to fear), for the record,” he said.