The government is planning to make new testing technologies available to far-flung and disadvantaged areas to help detect, isolate and treat people with the new coronavirus disease.
President Duterte bared the latest plan to boost the country’s testing efforts in his second monthly report to Congress on the implementation of Bayanihan 2 law.
“Part of the National Action Plan Phase II Planning is a proposal to make new testing technologies available to Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas where access to conventional Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) laboratories is limited,” the President said.
“The target is upgrade to tertiary laboratory services with at least one RT-PCR per province among provincial hospitals,” he added.
Duterte said COVID-19 testing must be available, affordable and accessible to the public especially in areas with marginalized population. He said such communities are isolated due to distance, weather conditions and transportation difficulties as well as have high poverty incidence, presence of vulnerable sector, or recovering from a crisis or armed conflict.
“People in geographical isolated or highly populated and depressed areas shall be provided the same level of access to COVID-19 testing,” he said.
As of Oct. 23, the country has 153 COVID-19 licensed laboratories. Around 3.8 million individuals have been tested with an average testing rate of 39,7000 individuals per day.
Duterte said the Department of Health continues to provide technical assistance to laboratories applying for license to ensure adequate number of COVID-19 testing centers. The DOH also met with the manufacturer of SARSCOV GeneXpert cartridges to ensure stable supply of testing kits in the country, he added.
He said the health department also continued to enhance the country’s detection and isolation measures through effective contact tracing, expanded testing and provision of more quarantine facilities for those in need. Testing protocols, he added, have been updated by the DOH.
“Through the efforts of the DOH, specimen backlogs have been reduced with corresponding actions identified, resulting in the resolution of technical problems on equipment and results validation, and a 65 percent decline in the number of average daily specimen backlogs,” Duterte said.
Duterte also said the proposed administrative order that prioritizes the testing of public and private healthcare workers for COVID-19 testing is currently being finalized.
The country has so far recorded 387,161 cases of coronavirus with 7,318 deaths and 348,967 recoveries.