By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is eyeing the accreditation of 58 more testing facilities for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by the end of the month to detect and isolate cases and save lives.
Vivencio Dizon, chief coordinator of the government’s 3T (test, trace, and treat) program, said the targeted testing facilities will be strategically located in various parts of the country to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“We need to ramp up testing to save lives,” he said during a meeting with President Duterte and several Cabinet members at the Malago Clubhouse inside Malacañang Park on Monday.
“Now we have 20 laboratories: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao na po ‘yan. Our goal is to build 58 more or to accredit and operate 58 more laboratories para po by May 30, in less than a month from now, we will have 78 laboratories all over the country strategically located in areas that can really address the future surges in the communities all over the country,” he added.
Dizon said these proposed 58 COVID-19 testing facilities are already in the advanced stages of accreditation. “We need to speed up the accreditation of these labs in order for them to begin operation within the month of May,” he said.
He said the Philippines should emulate New Zealand, Vietnam, Germany, and South Korea that have conducted swift and broad testing to detect, isolate, and treat coronavirus cases.
Once the country has enough testing capacity, he said the government can be confident in easing the quarantine restrictions.
He admitted that ramping up the country’s testing capacity is not cheap but necessary to save lives.
“A RT-PCR test ranges anywhere between I think 2,000 to — for the private labs, I think it goes up to above 5,000. It’s not cheap. But it is absolutely necessary po. We need to really invest in the testing capacity also because we know that a vaccine is not forthcoming soon” he said.
Apart from testing facilities, he said the government must accelerate the construction of quarantine and treatment facilities to decongest hospitals. He said they have also established mega swabbing centers to obtain the specimen for testing.
“So ngayon po, may napakalaking effort initiated by the Executive Secretary na kumuha po ng mga volunteers from all government agencies to come out and help in the swabbing and encoding and barcoding of our mega swabbing centers,” he said.
“We are building four today. We started po last week and they will all be completed this week,” he added.
Malacañang had earlier announced that Dizon has been designated as 3T czar to supervise the program on escalating the country’s testing capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic. He was earlier named National Task Force Deputy Chief Implementer of the government’s coronavirus response.
In his sixth weekly report to Congress last Monday, the President said the 19 COVID-19 laboratories, both public and private, have reached maximum daily capacity of 8,935, higher compared to the 6,220. This has exceeded the government target of 8,000 tests per day, according to the President.
As of April 30, he said a total of 108,680 samples and 97,505 persons have been tested for COVID-19.
The DOH has also traced so far 32,107 close contacts from 7,906 cumulative cases.
The government has enforced home quarantine, suspended public transport, banned large gatherings, among others, in Metro Manila and several high-risk areas under the enhanced community quarantine until mid-May. The quarantine restrictions, on the other hand, have been eased in moderate and low risk areas under the general community quarantine.