Governor orders probe on suspicious COVID-19 swab tests in Pampanga

Published August 28, 2020, 1:58 PM

by Philippine News Agency

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga (PNA) – Governor Dennis Pineda has ordered the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to conduct a probe on the integrity of results of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) swab tests in the province, after reports of a growing number of positive cases turning up as negative in just a matter of two to four days.

Governor Dennis Pineda (Photo courtesy of the provincial government of Pampanga)
Governor Dennis Pineda (Photo courtesy of Pampanga PIO)

Pineda, in a public address aired on Wednesday evening, asked the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), as well as public and private laboratories in the province, to explain why and how the results of tests using the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) could quickly change in just a few days.

The governor said he became concerned after he required a re-swab of COVID-19 positive patients who were asymptomatic.

Among a batch of 23 patients, he said 14 were not found with the coronavirus.

He added that in another batch of 15 patients, the virus was also not found in 12 persons.

“What process are these laboratories using in testing? Are they testing one sample at a time? Do they follow protocols? Are their machines in good shape? Are the results reliable? We would like to know because the Pampanga Covid-19 Center would like to help our patients in the most appropriate manner,” the governor said.

He said this has caused them a dilemma. “What do we do with these people who tested negative the second time? Should we still hold them in our facilities? Should we immediately send them home to their families who stand the risk of being infected? What treatment should be used on these people?” he asked.

On the average, he said around 300 people take swab tests in two laboratories in Pampanga.

These consist largely of employees and people traced to have been exposed to an infected person.

“Most of them are asymptomatic,” the governor added.

At least 39 new cases on Aug. 26 raised the number of Covid cases in this province to 818.

Of that number, 417 are pending or awaiting the results of re-swabbing. At least 373 recovered and 28 have died.

Pineda has also asked the Department of Health to regulate the price of swab tests, which ranges from P3,200 to P6,500, to an amount more affordable to local governments, government agencies, private companies, and individuals.