Zubiri: Mass testing should include Mindanao

Published April 20, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday appealed to the Department of Health (DOH) to include Mindanao in its mass testing efforts and speed up its accreditation of testing laboratories and centers in the region.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri  (Senator Miguel Zubiri's Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri (Senator Miguel Zubiri’s Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Zubiri said that while Metro Manila, has the most number of COVID-19 cases in the country, Mindanao has not been spared from the virus.

He said there are more than 130 positive cases in Mindanao, “an alarming number given the limited testing capacity in the region so far.”

“Kung sa Metro Manila lang tayo mag-focus, hindi natin matatalo itong COVID (If we will only focus on Metro Manila, we will not defeat COVID-19),” Zubiri said in a statement.

“The longer we hold other regions back from massive testing, the higher the chances that the virus will continue to spread there, even with community quarantine. We can’t afford for that to happen,” he added.

“We really need nationwide testing. That’s the only way we can properly identify the scope of this virus, and the only way we can begin to eliminate it,” he also pointed out.

He said health workers from Mindanao have been asking his office for help due to the lack of test kits.

“Nasa frontlines sila araw-araw (They are in the frontlines everyday), risking their own well being for us, and yet they can’t get tested because of a shortage of kits. It’s disheartening,” he said.

Zubiri donated 6,000 COVID-19 rapid antibody diagnostic kits to hospitals in his home province Bukidnon as well as in Cagayan de Oro City, in Surigao del Norte and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“I am prioritizing these areas of Mindanao, as the DOH has yet to accredit a single testing lab in these areas. This is one of my biggest frustrations, as there is only one accredited laboratory in Mindanao, located in Davao City and nowhere else at the moment. The DOH should cut the bureaucratic red tape and at least focus on regional laboratories and testing centers,” he said.

He said he hopes that the test kits he donated will be allocated for health workers.

Zubiri acknowledged reservations of the DOH regarding the use of rapid test kits, saying: “I know the gold standard of testing for COVID-19 are the PCR test kits, like those we donated to PGH (Philippine General Hospital).”

“But in the absence of accredited laboratories across the country, these rapid test kits will have to do for now,” he said.