By Genalyn Kabiling
The country may record more coronavirus cases once the government ramps up targeted testing of probable and suspect cases, hospitalized patients, and health care workers, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday.
Nograles said the government aims to increase 3,000 tests per day to 8,000 tests before the end of the month to facilitate swift detection, contact tracing, isolation, and treatment of patients to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Ang priority natin syempre (Our priority of course) is to test more, to identify more, para we can take care of them faster. The more maka-identify tayo ng mga (The more we can identify) positive cases, the more ma-isolate natin, and the more mabigyan natin ng proper health care (we can isolate them and give proper health care),” he said during a virtual press conference on Monday.
“If we expand the number of testings, then we might see more positive cases ng COVID,” he added.
The massive testing of suspected coronavirus cases is set to begin on April 14 as announced by Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the government’s national policy on the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The targeted testing coincides with the government’s efforts to hasten the protection of health care workers, accreditation of more testing centers, and establishment of quarantine centers.
Nograles clarified that the mass testing does not mean everyone can be tested. He said only people who needs to be tested for COVID-19 will be given priority .
He said priority will be given to hospitalized patients especially the elderly, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The country’s brave health frontliners will also be prioritized in the COVID-19 testing due to their exposure to patients. Probable and suspected coronavirus cases will also undergo priority testing, according to Nograles.
Nograles said the country has 15 testing centers, including St. Luke’s Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City, V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City, Medical City in Pasig, the Makati Medical Center, and the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory.
An additional 28 institutions are undergoing the Department of Health’s laboratory certification process, while 37 more have expressed their intention to be certified as testing centers.
“Because of these developments, the DOH says that we are now in a better position to reach our target of 3,000 tests per day. As of yesterday, a total of 33,814 individuals have been tested for COVID-19,” he said.
He said they hope to further increase the testing capacity to 8,000 tests per day before the of the month.
“We hope to go into 3,000 tests per day. Next week, we hope to double that,” he said.
“The week going to April 30, dapat umabot na tayo sa 8,000 per day. So, in order to do that, kailangan ng mas maraming test laboratories na ma-accredit (The week going to April 30, we should reach 8,000 per day. So, in order to do that, we must accredit more test laboratories),” he said.
Galvez had earlier reported that the country has 2,673 quarantine facilities for suspected and probable COVID-19 cases, with a total bed capacity of 165,756. “These numbers will grow in the days and weeks to come as more and more of the identified quarantine facilities become operational,” he said.
He said the Rizal Memorial Stadium facility will be completed, and in the next few days, they expect other facilities to start accepting suspected coronavirus patients as well.
“To put it in context, the mass testing is scheduled on April 14 because it matches the government’s plan that our quarantine and isolation facilities are open to accept patients with suspected infection,” Nograles said.
To ensure that health workers are properly protected, the government continues to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) sets to the different hospitals in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.
As of April 10, the government has distributed 60,060 PPE sets to health facilities. “More are now on the way to our medical personnel,” Nograles said.
He said the government aims to “flatten the curve so we don’t overwhelm the health care facilities” and health frontliners.
“More recoveries, less deaths. Talagang hahanap tayo ng paraan dito (We will find a way). We have to make ourselves last. They have to find a vaccine otherwise… we take it one step at a time. The world must find a vaccine. I believe they will,” he said.