The government plans to include in its “expanded targeted testing” the people who don’t exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, the official in charge of the testing said Thursday.
Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the government’s response to COVID-19, said this was to intensify the efforts against the pandemic’s transmission.
“We have to expand the testing to asymptomatic individuals,” Dizon said.
He said this new goal would be possible with the country’s maximum testing capacity now at 41,000 a day, with 52 laboratories processing results.
Despite the capacity, however, the actual tests done per day were just around 10,000, Dizon said.
Meanwhile, the Health department said Thursday the clinical trial use of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients will resume in the Philippines after the World Health Organization lifted the temporary stoppage of the malaria drug in its multi-country trial.
“We’ll lift the suspension and we’ll continue treating people with hydroxychloroquine.,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.
Her agency halted the trial use of the medicine about a week ago as it followed the WHO directive to momentarily stop using the off-label drug because of its potentially serious side effects, including heart arrhythmia.
Hydroxychloroquine was initially made to treat malaria and is normally used to treat arthritis, but initial studies have supposedly shown that it is a promising treatment for COVID-19, which emerged late last year from China.
“Actually, the executive committee of the WHO and the proponents for the Solidarity Trial here in the Philippines met last night until midnight to discuss this issue before giving out a statement,” Vergeire said.
“And they now have decided it is okay, and we will now include hydroxychloroquine.”
Vergeire said the public should not think that the concerned organizations were being inconsistent since the COVID-19 situation was evolving.
She said decisions might change based on new evidence, since the virus was just recently discovered and still being studied.
“We stand by the position that this is the evolving nature of this disease. And decisions may really be changed quite fast because of these new pieces of evidence that come out every day,” Vergeire said.
“We listen. We follow, and now we will continue using hydroxychloroquine.”
Vergeire defended the WHO’s shifting directives as she noted that SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus that causes COVID-19—was a relatively new virus that the experts had yet to be familiar with.
“There may be people who will say that we are inconsistent. Many people may say that we keep on changing protocols, but we stand by the position of the evolving nature of the disease, and the decisions can really be changed quite fast because of these new evidence that we get every day,” Vergeire said.
US President Donald Trump said last month he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus despite medical warnings about the use of the drug against malaria.