PH Red Cross breaches 5 million COVID-19 tests; reiterates need to test more

Published December 2, 2021, 12:15 PM

by Dhel Nazario

Philippine Red Cross has tested more than five million Filipinos for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a milestone PRC Chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Sen. Richard Gordon has set after they put up PRC’s first-ever molecular laboratory in April 2020.

“We have been here since the beginning of the pandemic with our unwavering commitment to curb the spread of the virus,” Gordon said. Currently, PRC said that it now has fourteen molecular laboratories throughout the country.

According to PRC, they have the biggest network of laboratories in the country and have detected over 300,000 COVID-19 positive cases in the last 19 months since they established their first laboratory.

In reaching five million tests, PRC said it employed 313 medical technologists who worked 24/7 to get a majority of the test results out 24 hours from when samples were received in the laboratories. Tests conducted by the PRC comprise 21 percent of all the tests in the country.

PRC’s testing network extends to all areas of the country with three of the biggest laboratories in Metro Manila providing 30 percent of tests for the National Capital Region (NCR). In addition, there are four laboratories in Luzon, three in Visayas, and four in Mindanao with the newest laboratory launched on Nov. 16 in Cotabato City.

In addition to the RT-PCR swab tests, the PRC introduced the RT-PCR saliva tests as a more affordable alternative with faster results. These tests are not only available through the molecular laboratories, but may also be conducted via home service through the motorcycle transport service, Angkas.

Despite hitting five million tests, PRC said that it is still working hard to continue testing especially with the emergence of new variants that may be more transmissible and perhaps deadlier.

“Being the number one Laboratory in the country is not enough,” Gordon said.

“We need to ensure that the borders are well-guarded from the threat of new variants including the Omicron variant. We have to continue quarantining all arrivals whether or not they are vaccinated, whether or not they come from Green countries, then test them on the 5th day. Once they complete hotel quarantine, they should continue home isolation for another week. This is to ensure we don’t get sidelined by false negatives.”

PRC said that it is in full support of the government’s efforts on contact tracing at the community level and therefore advocates continued testing. PRC mentioned that testing has gone down to less than 22,000 per day from a high of 578,000 tests a day during the last surge.

“It is not clear if the cases truly indicate a decreasing incidence of the disease, or if this is due to a lower number of tests,” PRC said. PRC and its fourteen molecular laboratories will be open during the holiday season.