Around the world, countries are continuously raising efforts to win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, coming up with solutions to prevent and cure the disease. In response to the rapid outbreak, the country implemented strict quarantine guidelines and eventually secured a national plan through the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases for adherence and implementation of each local government unit. Global Medical Technologies (GMT) Manila and ENDEC Inc. in collaboration with Unilab, Inc. (Unilab), the country’s leading pharmaceutical and healthcare company, activated the deployment of modular testing laboratories to overcome the growing negative implications of this unprecedented crisis.
“IATF called on the help of the private sector to prevent the spread of the transmission and we’re glad that ULAP, DOH, and Unilab responded positively and quickly. Philippines' private sector is not lacking in its efforts to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. There are more solutions underway but this turn-key solution of Pop-up Container BSL-2 Laboratory is one of the first successful implementations” says Sec. Vince Dizon, Deputy Chief Implementer of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19.
GMT Manila and construction design firm ENDEC, Inc., are the team behind the design, production, and operational roll-out of these COVID-19 testing laboratories. In the past, they have deployed BSL2 laboratories across the country to support the National Bio-threat Reduction Program of the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry. Their laboratories have been used in the testing of Avian Flu, African Swine Flu, and other biological threats that entered the country.
“The strength of our turnkey program is that it is rapidly deployable and highly scalable. We are able to produce a Pop-up Container BSL-2 Laboratory in 3 weeks and install it in as little as 12 hours. It comes with full equipment, specialized PCR machines, and the test kits, and we will even train the personnel who will operate it. So it’s really a plug and play solution to support areas that have no equipment nor previous experience in this field“, as explained by Mitch Genato, CEO of Romlas Health Group, holdings company of GMT Manila.
The first laboratory was donated to the Department of National Defense (DND) and deployed to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in response to the growing numbers of frontliners, government workers, and military personnel that need immediate testing. The other labs are currently being installed at Bacolod’s The Doctor’s Hospital, Ciudad Zamboanga Medical Center, Cebu Doctor’s Hospital, Southern Philippines Medical Center-Davao, and Maria Regina Xavier University Hospital in Cagayan de Oro.
“During a time of crisis, we are challenged to respond with innovation and use of technology. Today's good news is that the Pop-up Mobile Laboratory model is available; LGUs need not travel long distances to bring swab specimens for confirmatory tests; this laboratory can go to hotspots and remote areas. Following the initial units deployed by Unilab, LGUs are investing in these movable laboratories. After all, this is not for a single-use only because it can be subsequently retrofitted to respond as necessary to other emergencies in the future," explains Quirino Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua, National President of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP)
“IATF’s goal is to escalate testing so having this turn-key solution in place immediately will certainly yield us an increased testing capacity leading us faster to our goal,” he added.
The initiative of deploying laboratories focuses on providing fast, stable, and reliable tests to reduce the burden of hospitals and clinics especially in provinces who have encountered or may encounter difficulties due to lack of resources and equipment. Other countries such as Vietnam and South Korea have been able to contain the virus because of a robust and responsive testing program. Unilab believes this is a good investment to raise our country’s capacity to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic and to other potential outbreaks in the future.
“The goal is to get these laboratories up and running as a practical solution to avoid further delays on COVID-19 testing. Unilab wants to help lower the rate of cases and intends to supplement laboratory testing in support to IATF’s call for help, making testing available to communities and LGUs that cannot readily access laboratory testing thus bolstering a reliable, fast action plan to quickly address emerging outbreaks, ” concluded by William Johnson, CEO of ENDEC, Inc.