By Genalyn kabiling
Everyone should be tested for the new coronavirus disease “in an ideal world” but the government has no program for mass testing yet due to its limited resources, Malacañang admitted on Monday (May 18).
The government instead will rely on the assistance of the private sector to boost the country’s testing capacity for the meantime, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“As much as possible po ano, mayroon tayong—ini-increase natin iyong capacity natin ng testing, kaya nga we’re aiming na aabot tayo sa 30,000. Pero in terms of mass testing na ginagawa ng Wuhan na all 11 million, wala pa pong ganyang programa at iniiwan natin sa pribadong sektor,” he said during a Palace press briefing aired on state television.
(As much as possible, we are increasing our testing capacity so we are aiming to reach 30,000 [daily tests]. But in terms of mass testing like that implemented in Wuhan where 11 million will be tested, we don’t have a similar program and we’re leaving that up to the private sector.)
Roque noted that although companies are not yet required to test their workers before going to work, the private sector involved in Project ARK (Antibody Rapid Test Kits) has offered to conduct rapid testing of their employees. He said the private sector has also donated testing equipment to some government hospitals.
Project ARK recently raised over a million rapid test kits for the workers of participating companies as well as for donation to select barangays.
At present, Roque said the country so far has 30 testing facilities while the global supply of rapid test kits is flying off the shelves.
“In an ideal world, dapat po lahat ng tao ma-testing, pero alam ninyo, una, ang hirap na nga nitong PCR testing, trenta pa lang ang laboratories natin, ang gusto nating mangyari hindi bababa sa nobenta iyang mga PCR testing centers natin,” he said.
(In an ideal world, everyone must be tested but you know, firstly, PCR testing is difficult. We have 30 laboratories. We want to increase the number to 90 PCR testing centers.)
“Pangalawa, nagkakaubusan din po sa rapid test kits. Sa katunayan, alam ko po as a fact na napakahirap na ngayon sa Tsina maglabas ng rapid test kits dahil sila mismo gusto nilang i-test ang lahat ng mga Tsino.”
(Second, rapid test kits are getting scarce. In fact, the release of rapid test kits in China has become very difficult because they want to test all the Chinese.)
Apart from Chinese customs allegedly restricting the export of its rapid test kit supplies, Roque said the United States is also buying all available rapid test kits for its people.
“So, pahirapan po iyan and that is why we are giving recognition to the initiative of the private sector na sila na mismo ang bumili ng rapid test kits para ma-test ang kanilang mga empleyado,” he said.
(It has become difficult to obtain supplies, and that’s why we are giving recognition to the initiative of the private sector that bought rapid test kits to test their employees.)
Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vivencio Dizon recently said the country’s testing capacity has reached 14,500 a day as of May 10, up from 8,500 daily tests recorded last May 2.
Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the government’s coronavirus response, said the government aims to increase testing capacity to 30,000 a day by the end of the month.
The government also continues to accredit more testing facilities to boost the country’s capacity to detect and trace patients with coronavirus. From 30 accredited testing facilities, the government aims to raise the number to 66 by the end of the month.
Dizon said the government is also working with the private sector to clear the backlog of 7,000 coronavirus tests in two weeks. He said private testing laboratories have committed to assist their government counterparts with their backlog while other testing centers will be enhanced with “automated machines” to hasten their process.