The Department of Health said Friday more than 12,000 submitted samples for COVID-19 testing were considered backlogs in various laboratories nationwide.
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In an online forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the processing of these samples had been delayed for various reasons, including the “overwhelming” arrival of specimens due to revised protocols for expanded COVID-19 testing.
Last week, Malacañang announced that even people who did not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms would be included in the government’s expanded testing program.
To finish the backlogs, Vergeire said the laboratories had capped the number of samples they accept per day.
The DOH has also implemented zoning for easy referral to other nearby laboratories.
As of July 9, there were 83 laboratories in the country accredited to conduct COVID-19 tests— 62 of which are polymerase chain reaction facilities and 21 GeneXpert laboratories.
The operational laboratories have tested 825,139 individuals, 61,964 of whom were positive for COVID-19 for a positivity rate of 7.5 percent, Vergeire said.
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Vergeire said the average turnaround time or the waiting time to get the COVID-19 testing result was 24 to 48 hours for GeneXpert laboratories, and 50 hours for RT-PCR laboratories.
Meanwhile, the DOH on Friday reported 1,233 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total to 52,914.
Of the total, 38,324 are active cases undergoing treatment or quarantine.
DOH likewise announced 286 recoveries. This brings the total number of recoveries to 13,230.
In June, the country’s testing czar Vince Dizon said the government targeted to test 10 million in the next eight to 10 months.
The government earlier said its goal was to conduct 30,000 tests per day by May 30. Months later, laboratories were still hard-pressed to consistently breach the 20,000 mark in daily tests conducted.
The DOH earlier explained that operational constraints were preventing laboratories from operating at their maximum capacity.
Vergeire pointed out that the country did not have the resources to conduct COVID-19 testing when the first case was recorded in January in response to presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s comment that the Philippines could have expanded its testing capacity much earlier into the pandemic.
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At the same time, Vergeire said the defect which caused the recall of the COVID-19 test kits developed by the University of the Philippines had been fixed and its roll-out would be soon.
Vergeire told the virtual forum the kits already secured a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration and the DOH had been coordinating with the developers, the Department of Science and Technology, and manufacturer Manila Health Tek Lab, Inc.
In April, the DOST said the locally developed test kits were ready for distribution.
However, these were recalled in May after a “minor problem” was detected during the validation conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Stakeholders are just awaiting a final advisory from the DOH before they start using the locally-developed COVID-19 test kits which are cheaper than foreign counterparts.
The DOST earlier said COVID-19 tests using this kit would only cost P1,320 compared to the cost of using imported ones which was initially pegged at around P8,000 in March.
The current price of COVID-19 test in the country is around P4,000.
Meanwhile, some 111 health workers in Central Visayas had been infected with COVID-19, with Cebu City having the most cases, the DOH said.
Of the total, 40 cases came from the regional hospital Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical in Cebu City, four were from the city health department, and another four from the Cebu City Medical Center, said DOH Region-7 Spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche.
The agency is verifying the condition of the 11 health personnel, Loreche said.
“The numbers will show that we need to be more careful as we do our duty and while in the workplace. But will be surprised that it’s not all from the workplace the infection - but could be from the community,” Loreche said.
Coronavirus-hit medical workers of the government received cash aid and hazard pay, while PhilHealth assisted those from the private sector.
Meanwhile, several health personnel overwhelmed by the pandemic workload want to resign despite a P10,000 incentive from the Cebu City government, said Dr. Joseph Descallar of the Philippine Nurses Association-Cebu.
“It’s not enough. We hope it could be raised to P15,000 and give it to all, not just to a selected few,” Descallar said.
The DOH and military earlier sent additional personnel to the city.
Private hospitals are also expanding their bed capacity, as directed by the government, said Dr. Yong Larrazabal of the Cebu Doctors Group of Hospitals.
The patients currently occupy 83 percent of Cebu City’s critical care capacity.
The Cebu City hall has been closed for 2 days for disinfection after nearly 100 personnel tested positive for the virus.