MANILA – A political consultancy firm is calling on the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF) to designate fully-equipped regional and provincial laboratories to speed up testing and confirmation of suspected COVID-19 cases as a donation of 100,000 test kits arrived in Manila on Saturday care.
“The test kits donated by the Chinese government must be put to use immediately by the Department of Health and IATF. We need to establish labs on the regional and provincial level to confirm new cases with great speed as part of a more targeted data-based strategy to defeating COVID-19 in the Philippines,” said Mr. Aureli C. Sinsuat, Executive Director and spokesperson of Manila-based political consultancy firm PUBLiCUS Asia, Inc. (PAI).
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines all test kits were analyzed centrally at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa, causing delays in the results. Recently, the Department of Health (DOH) designated three additional COVID-19 testing labs in Baguio City, Cebu City, and Davao City, respectively.
“One lab per island group is not enough considering the serious logistical difficulties in delivering test kits to labs. The various quarantines and lockdowns being implemented around the country have severely impacted island-to-island transportation and supply chains in general,” Sinsuat said.
The recommendation of PAI is to establish at the minimum at least one fully-equipped testing lab per region, with the option of establishing provincial-level labs to speed up testing in provinces with high numbers of Persons Under Investigation (PUI) or Persons Under Monitoring (PUM).
“These regional and provincial labs will provide the IATF and local government units the data they need to fight COVID-19 door-to-door in the hardest-hit areas,” Sinsuat said.
In a report published on March 20, 2020 titled ‘#FlattenTheCurve: Effects of Exposure Risk Reduction and Quarantine Policies on COVID-19 Local Transmission Rates in the Philippines’, PAI noted that the Philippines “simply does not have the financial or technical capabilities to adopt the mass testing and individual isolation strategy employed by the Republic of Korea to flatten their country’s transmission curve.” However, Sinsuat said the delivery of the additional 100,000 test kits has significantly changed the situation.
“We now have all the test kits we need for the meantime. It’s just a matter of putting them to good use. I hope the IATF will prioritize speedy testing and confirmation of COVID-19 cases. We need that critical data to aid us in the fight against this formidable virus,” Sinsuat said.
For Interview/Reference: Mr. Aureli C. Sinsuat, PAI Executive Director