By Noreen Jazul
The Department of Health on March 30, Monday, said it is planning to use another type of testing system to detect coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the country faster.
In an interview with DZMM, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it has ordered COVID-19 test cartridges called Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 from molecular diagnostics company Cepheid.
Duque said the test cartridges run on GeneXpert machines, which the Philippines already has. In fact, the health chief said there are 400 GeneXpert machines in the country.
“Game-changer po ito kapag nabigyan po tayo ng COVID-19 cartridges (Once we are given the COVID-19 cartridges, it will be a game-changer),” Duque said.
The health chief said the test cartridges from Cepheid can rapidly detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Sa COVID-19 cartridges ipapasok iyong specimen, and within 45 minutes to one hour ay kaya na pong lumabas ang resulta (The specimen will be placed inside the COVID-19 cartridges, and within 45 minutes to one hour the results will be available),” Duque said.
Duque said the COVID-19 cartridges might arrive in the Philippines mid April.
“Sumualat na po ako sa pinakamatataas na opisyal, at pinakaisusapn ko po ang OP (Office of the President) na sumulat din si President Dutetre (I already wrote a request to the manufacturer’s highest officials, and I asked the OP to ask President Dutertre to write a request as well),” Duque said, adding that Indonesian President Joko Widodo did the same.
“Kahit di naman 100,000 agad, kahit mga 10,000 to 20,000 man lang magkaroon tayo (It doesn’t have to be 100,000 right away, but hopefully we can have at least 10,000 to 20,000),” he added
Meanwhile, the DOH said it is also eyeing 30 more laboratories in the country to be accredited as an official testing center for COVID-19 cases.