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China envoy rejects DOH Usec remark

The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Sunday debunked as what it described as “irresponsible remarks” issued by an official of the Department of Health insinuating that some coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing kits donated by China were found with a low 40 percent accuracy rate. 

“The Chinese Embassy firmly rejects any irresponsible remarks and any attempts to undermine our cooperation in this regard,” the embassy said in a statement.

The statement was released after Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that some COVID-19 testing kits donated by China were not used because they had only a 40 percent accuracy, which was much lower than those from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In an apparent effort to assuage the Chinese government, Health Secretary Franciso Duque III texted Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian on Sunday, assuring him that “there is nothing wrong with the real time-polymerase chain reaction machine which is used for generating positive or negatives result as the case may be.”

“Again your Test Kits BGI and Sansure Biotechnology are very good and up to the standards as those which were donated by WHO and approved by our RITM,” Duque said, even as he expressed the Philippines’ gratitude and appreciation to the ambassador and the Chinese government.

The Chinese Embassy said a check with the DOH showed that two batches of 2,000 BGI PCR0type test kits and 100,000 Sansure PCR-type test kits donated by the Chinese government were assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and found to be at part with the WHO-provided kits, and that those test kits were of high quality and standards with no accuracy problems.

It said the test kits mentioned by Vergeire in a March 28 press briefing “were neither tested by RITM which did not receive any kit sample for lab validation nor donated by the Chinese government.”

“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, China has continually provided assistance as needed to support the Philippines’ battle against the epidemic. At this moment of crisis, we should fight in solidarity to overcome the epidemic at the earliest date,” the embassy said.

Vergeire said they only recommended usage of testing kits from China if they showed the same results as those coming from WHO.

The Chinese government earlier donated 100,000 testing kits to the Philippines.

However, the DOH official did not specify how many of the testing kits from China showed inaccurate results.

The Singapore government, meanwhile, has donated 40,000 COVID-19 testing kits and six ventilators to the Philippines.

During the turnover ceremonies, Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert E.A. Borje received the donations from Singapore Ambassador Gerard Ho.

The testing kits and two ventilators were donated by Temasek Foundation based in Singapore.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also received the ventilators flown in from Singapore and donated by the Filinvest City Foundation.

The DFA said the six ventilators and 40,000 test kits were cleared for release by the Bureau of Customs on the same day for immediate turnover to the Department of Health for distribution to frontline hospitals.

The release of the shipments came two days after the arrival of separate shipment of 57,600 testing kits, also donated to the DOH by Alibaba Foundation founder Jack Ma.

The Bureau of Customs NAIA on Friday released the expedited shipment imported by Alibaba Foundation with the support of Senator Manny Pacquiao.

Since March 9, the NAIA Customs has expedited the release of 1,616 importations of shipments related to the country’s fight against the coronavirus.

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said his agency prioritizes the processing of all personal protective equipment and medical emergency supplies.

Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, urged the DOH to act fast to approve a personal protective equipment (PPE) prototype submitted by the garments export industry, whose 300,000 workers are ready to augment the country’s short supply of the PPEs amid a global shortage of medical equipment.

The PPE prototype’s approval, she said, will mean continued employment for garment workers in Taytay and give hope to more sewers in Cavite and other garment-producing communities in the country. 

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said that funding industries badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and helping them adapt their production to crucially needed goods is part of the coping mechanisms of a P750 billion Senate bill she proposed.

Marcos also said that the government can ensure a more reliable supply of food and other basic goods if it does not burden suppliers with documentary requirements and instead allow “substantial compliance.

Senator Joel Villanueva cited the call of state universities and colleges (SUC) to provide them with necessary raw materials and other forms of support to manufacture sorely needed equipment for frontline health care workers treating patients such as face shields.

Villanueva cited the various efforts of SUCs who have volunteered to use their equipment such as 3D printers to produce face shields for frontline health care workers.

“We join in the appeal of our academic community which has been responding to the national emergency brought by COVID-19 in their own way,” said the lawmaker, who chairs the Senate committee on higher, technical, and vocational education.

Senator Christopher Go is appealed to export-oriented local manufacturers of medical supplies and equipment to retain most of their output for use in the Philippines.

He said this will address the scarcity of certain medical supplies and equipment given the worldwide shortage.

Under present rules, registered manufacturers are required to export a certain minimum percentage of their daily output. If they meet this, they are entitled to various duties and tax exemptions and incentives.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has recommended the temporary lifting of these export requirements, however.

Go said that while donations of medical supplies and equipment from other countries are appreciated, the country cannot rely on outside sources all the time.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said mass testing is an important part of the government’s response against COVID-19, but it was not the solution.

He said testing was important to identify those who were sick so they could be treated in isolation, but it is not needed by everyone.

Topics: coronavirus disease , China , COVID-19 , Department of Health , Health kits , Inter-Agency Task Force , Jack Ma
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