By Martin Sadongdong
At least three testing laboratories are expected to be set up in Zamboanga City as the government seeks to strengthen the capability of local governments in Mindanao to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a national task force official said on Sunday (May 3).
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said the national government is fast-tracking the establishment of testing laboratories at the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) and at the Department of Agriculture’s laboratory.
The third testing center will be built by the Philippine Red Cross.
The testing laboratories are expected to cater to the needs of patients from the Zamboanga Peninsula and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
Galvez said he wanted to ramp up the government’s capacity to “trace, test, and treat” COVID-19 patients by setting up more testing centers nationwide.
“The President told me to visit all the places, especially those areas where COVID cases were undetermined due to the lack or absence of testing laboratories,” he said.
The task force chief implementer also said President Duterte ordered him to assess the health situation in areas that are having difficulty monitoring COVID-19 cases.
The proposed testing centers were inspected by Galvez on Saturday.
The completion of the establishment of the three testing centers in Zamboanga City will come at a crucial time as an outbreak was reported in a jail facility in the city.
According to local officials, there were 59 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Zamboanga City as of Saturday night.
Of these, 48 were recorded inside the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center, including 45 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) and three personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
At least 29 cases were recorded on Saturday night alone, prompting city officials to coordinate with concerned government agencies to address the outbreak.