By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has allowed the “free market” to operate in coronavirus testing with the accreditation of more testing facilities in the country.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said people now have the option to choose from among the 54 COVID-19 testing laboratories established across the country.
“I can assure you that market-driven na po ngayon ang ating mga testing labs for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests (I can assure you that our testing labs for PCR tests are market–driven). We now have 54 labs with a combined capacity of 41,990,” he said in a Palace press briefing Tuesday (June 9) when asked to address concerns about the reportedly expensive testing kits in the market.
“You can choose now your lab, so we have allowed the free market to operate in PCR testing,” he added.
Out of the national testing capacity, Roque noted that Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) has a testing capacity of 20,000 a day.
“Pupuwede na kayong pumunta sa lab of your choice, pati po iyong mga dumarating na OFW (overseas Filipino workers), hindi na po automatic na ang swab ay pupunta sa PNRC (You can go to the lab of your choice. Even for the returning OFWs, it is not automatic that the swab samples go to PNRC),” he said.
In his 11th weekly report to Congress, President Duterte said the Department of Health has accredited 11 more COVID-19 testing laboratories that pushed the total to 54 to boost the country’s testing capacity. As of June 4, Duterte said there are 140 laboratories currently being evaluated with 112 laboratories already at Stages 3 and above.
“As of 04 June 2020, a total of 398,914 tests have been conducted on 366,423 individuals, with a recorded increase of 83,551 from 26 May 2020,” Duterte said.
The President also reported to Congress that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation board has approved the new coronavirus testing package following criticisms by some groups about its high costs.
The new testing rates are P3,409 if all services for testing are procured and provided by the testing laboratory; P2,077 if test kits are donated to the testing laboratory; and P121 if test kits are donated to the testing laboratory, and the cost of running the laboratory and the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machine for testing is included in the facility budget.
The government recently announced plans to expand its testing program to track down asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus in Metro Manila and other densely populated areas.
As the country’s testing capacity continued to improve, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Vivencio Dizon said targeted expanded testing should cover health workers and other frontliners who show no symptoms of the disease.
According to Dizon, they aim to raise the testing capacity to 50,000 per day by the end of June. The average actual coronavirus tests conducted by authorities is presently around 10,000 per day.
Ayala Group recently ventured into building four testing laboratories and expanded the capacity of three existing testing facilities in Makati, Cebu, and Davao. The testing sites could contribute an additional 5,500 RT-PCR tests per day.
Ayala Healthcare Holdings Inc. (AC Health) has teamed up with Qualimed Health Network to build the four modular-type biosafety level 2 laboratories in their hospitals at Sta. Rosa, Laguna; Tanauan, Batangas; San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; and Iloilo City.
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