Local Roundup: Health OKs saliva use for COVID-19 test

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is now ready to roll out the saliva RT-PCR testing after it completed and passed all the requirements on Jan. 21.

SALIVA TEST. Philippine Red Cross chairman and Senator Richard Gordon holds a saliva specimen during the saliva pilot testing in Mandaluyong on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Saliva testing against COVID-19 has obtained the approval of the Department of Health for a public roll-out. Arman Clemente
The Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 Laboratory Expert Panel earlier gave a positive recommendation leading to the approval of the use of saliva as an alternative specimen for RT-PCR testing among PRC laboratories.

In a letter addressed to PRC Chairman and CEO Senator Richard Gordon, Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III commended the humanitarian organization “for finishing the pilot implementation in a short period of time and complying with the initial recommendations provided by the department.”

PRC has been in talks with DOH and the Food and Drugs Administration for the approval of the saliva tests for public use. The tests are less invasive than the RT-PCR swab test and are cheaper. The sample processing time is shorter compared to other tests as it runs only for three to four hours.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH will wait for the validation test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) before allowing saliva test in other laboratories in the country.

Appeals up for blood plasma

The Philippine Red Cross appealed on Sunday for more blood plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19.

PRC has given convalescent plasma to 614 virus patients so far, said Dr. Monina Nalupta, head of the PRC national blood services.

“We continue to call on recovered COVID-19 patients to give blood plasma as many still reach out to us for convalescent treatment,” she said in Filipino in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

Each bag of blood plasma from a COVID-19 survivor, "contains neutralizing antibodies which will help recipients fight off the infection," the PRC earlier said.

The Philippine General Hospital and St. Luke's Medical Center used convalescent plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients.

1,949 new cases on Sunday

The Philippines logged on Sunday 1,949 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 513,619, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.

The DOH reported 53 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 10,242, which is 1.99 percent of the total cases.

It also reported 7,729 recoveries, bringing the number of patients who recovered from the disease to 475,612, which is 92.6 percent of total cases.

This left 27,765 active cases, which is 5.4 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 83.3 percent are mild; 9.1 percent are asymptomatic; 4.4 percent are critical; 2.7 percent are severe; and 0.53 percent are moderate.

The DOH also reported that of the 2,100 total ICU bed capacity, 60 percent are available; of the 17,100 total isolation bed capacity, 64 percent are available; of the 8,100 total ward bed capacity, 74 percent are available; and of the 2,100 total units of ventilators, 78 percent are available.

Delay seen in easing age limits

The Department of Health (DOH) is planning to recommend the postponement of a relaxation of age restrictions in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

In a public briefing on Saturday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the statement in light of reports that minors were among the COVID-19 cases with the UK variant of the coronavirus detected in the country.

On Saturday, DOH said that seven out of the 12 cases that were found positive for the UK variant of the coronavirus in Bontoc, Mountain Province were minors as young as 5 and 10.

On the other hand, Health Undersecretary Dr. Myrna Cabotaje on Sunday defended the relaxation of age restrictions, saying it is good for the children's mental health to go out of their houses.

On Friday, Malacañang announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) decided to ease the age-based restrictions for MGCQ areas starting February 1.

From the age range of 15 to 65 years old previously, the government will now allow people ages 10 to 65 years old to go out of their residences.

Topics: Philippine Red Cross , Saliva test , COVID-19 , Richard Gordon , Department of Health , Maria Rosario Vergeire
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