By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is aiming to have 1.5 percent of the country’s population tested for COVID-19 before the end of July, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
Vergeire said they have expanded the targeted testing program to cover more frontliners, including barangay responders and social workers, as well as vulnerable persons to determine if they are infected with the disease.
So far, she said the country’s testing capacity has reached almost 50,000 a day due to the accreditation of 59 testing laboratories. However, only an average of 10,500 to 11,000 actual tests are conducted per day.
“As of yesterday actually we have a total of about 2,200 backlogs in our laboratory, napababa na ho natin iyan it to just 500. Kaya lang with this operational issues that we encounter daily, talagang hindi po maiwasan na mayroon po talagang nagkakaroon ng bottleneck (As of yesterday, actually we have a total of about 2,200 backloads in our laboratory, we have lowered it to just 500. But with these operational issues that we encounter daily, we cannot avoid the bottleneck),” she said in a Palace press briefing aired on state television.
“So mayroon na ho tayong strategies na ini-employ for these things para po magkaroon tayo nang stable na (We have employed strategies for these things to obtain stable) outputs per day and hopefully we can reach this goal of having 1.5 percent of the population tested by the end of July,” she added.
To maximize the country’s daily testing capacity, Vergeire said the government has partnered with the private sector to augment the medical supplies needed for the testing. She said they have also centralized the procurement of medical equipment and other supplies, particularly sourcing these goods directly with the suppliers.
The government has also conducted emerging hiring of health workers and encoders to ensure efficient data gathering and provide “real-time information” to the health department, according to the DOH official.
On complaints about the alleged delays and inaccuracy in the COVID case reporting, Vergeire assured the public that the government is taking steps to improve the situation, particularly enhance an automated system.
“Our government through the DICT (Department of Information and Communications), nagtatrabaho na po nang mabilis para magkaroon tayo ng automated system para hindi naman po tayo magkaroon ng ganitong delays sa pagre-report (is working fast so we can have an automated system so we won’t have delays in the reporting),” she said.
“So hopefully in the coming days, we can have more improvements in our report,” she added.
She also said the health department has remained transparent about reporting the data related to illness. The DOH also provides explanation behind any increase, decrease or other changes in the coronavirus data, she said.
“Kailangan namin ng tulong ng lahat, especially our local government units, kasi hindi naman aandar talaga ang reporting kung hindi makakapagbigay din ng report na maayos ang ating mga local governments (We need the cooperation of everyone, especially our local government units, because our reporting won’t move if they cannot give a proper report),” she said.
An adviser of the national task force on the government’s coronavirus response, Dr. Tony Leachon, recently claimed that the DOH has “lost focus in everything” amid reported delayed data on the coronavirus infections. He said the public demands accountability from DOH.
“The IATF and NTF have been doing their best to prevent this pandemic to escalate. But we couldn’t turn a blind eye to the dropped balls. People are waiting for positive results. It’s time,” he tweeted. “Without a clear, cohesive and transparent communication campaign from DOH , the noise from an overly stressed-out and highly emotional general public, interposed with a varied mixture of political opinions and even potentially misleading facts, will sadly just drown out the truth,” he added.