Gov’t targets to increase COVID-19 daily testing capacity to 50,000

Marje Pelayo   •   May 19, 2020   •   525

MANILA, Philippines — The national government is planning to further improve the country’s testing capacity for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to COVID-19 Response Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon. 

Once the country achieves the initial target of 30,000 per day by the end of May, the government may opt to increase its testing capacity to 50,000 per day.

“Thirty thousand tests per day at the end of May. Pagkatapos nito ay kailangan pa natin itaas ito ng 50,000 kada araw (We will then need to increase it further to 50,000 per day),” Dizon said in an interview.

To date, Dizon said, the government is able to achieve around 17,000 tests per day.

This can be attributed to the collaborative efforts of public and private hospitals and laboratories together with the Philippine Red Cross. 

In line with this, Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire expressed confidence that the targetted daily testing capacity will be achieved with the government’s ‘Test, Trace, Treat’ (T3) program.

At present, DOH has a total of 30 accredited laboratories authorized to administer Reverse Transmission-Polymerase Chain Reaction (TR-PCR) Tests.

DOH warns public on possible airborne transmission of COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 10, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) has warned the public on the possible airborne transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Despite the lack of further studies, the Health Department said they are not dismissing the possibility that COVID-19 might spread in the air. They reminded the public to always adhere to the health and safety protocols.

Patuloy po tayong natututo tungkol sa SARS-CoV-2 at COVID-19. Kabilang na nga po dito ang mode of transmission o paraan ng pagkalat ng COVID-19 (We are continuously learning about SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19. This includes the mode of transmission of COVID-19). It’s an evolving science and new evidence continues to roll out,” according to DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.

More than 200 scientists urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to acknowledge the possibility of airborne transmission. According to a study, “viruses are released during exhalation, talking and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air.”

The WHO previously dismissed the possibility of airborne transmission but said they will release a scientific brief summary regarding the collected data on the modes of transmission of COVID-19

“This is a respiratory pathogen and so it is important that what we know is it fits into the guidance that we have, which is why a comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” according to WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19 Pandemic Maria Van Kerkhove.

Meanwhile, the DOH said they will also review and verify the evidence and studies about COVID-19 in order to provide appropriate information and advisories to the public.AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH sees clustering of COVID-19 cases in over 400 areas nationwide

Robie de Guzman   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported it has monitored around 488 clustering of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in different areas in the country.

The DOH said this means that an active transmission of virus is happening in these areas.

As of July 8, the department said that 379 of the clusters were reported in communities, 46 in health facilities, 24 in jails, and 39 in other areas.

The DOH also reported clustering of cases in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), at a construction site in Metro Manila and several barangays across the country.

It also said that event-based report showed that Metro Manila had six new barangays with clustering, and one each in Cebu City, Mandaue City, Palawan, and Albay.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 50,359 cases.

The DOH surmised that the continued increase in coronavirus infections in the country is not just attributed to improved testing as it may also be due to the clustering of cases and community transmission.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the spike in cases, especially in Metro Manila, is also probably due to increased physical contact following the easing of quarantine restrictions.

“Maaaring ang pagtaas ng mga cases sa Metro Manila ay dahil sa increased testing capacity at community transmission na ating nararanasan nang simulan ang pag ease ng community restrictions,” she said.

“Lalong napaiigting ang community transmission kung lax o hindi natin sinusunod ang minimum public health standards,” she added.

Vergeire said they are now closely monitoring possible clustering of coronavirus cases in different areas of the country.

The country’s coronavirus cases rose to 50,359 on Wednesday after the DOH reported additional 2,539 cases. The agency said that 1,922 of this figure were fresh or newly-validated while 617 were reported late.

The DOH also reported a total of 12,588 recovered patients and 1,314 fatalities.

Vergeire reiterated the agency’s appeal to the public to be more cautious and strictly observe health protocols such as the wearing of face mask, frequent handwashing and social distancing.

“This is our call to everybody, whether you be in the private or public sector. If you are going out and exposing yourself and your loved ones to an unseen enemy, protect yourself. by doing so, you protect your family, you protect your community, you protect the nation,” she said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

DOH urges employers to strictly implement health protocols in workplaces

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday called on employers from both the public and private sectors to strictly enforce minimum health standards to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in workplaces.

In a virtual press forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they issued the appeal after investigation by the DOH Epidemiology Team revealed there were lapses in the implementation of health protocols in some offices that reported COVID-19 cases.

The minimum health standards set by the government’s task force against COVID-19 include the wearing of face mask, observing physical distancing, among others.

“Bagama’t may physical distancing, mask and all pero kapag kumakain magkakasama sa pantry so noong pumutok ang impeksyon nakita na maybe some of them who ate in that pantry became positive,” she said.

Vergeire stressed that employers should make sure that these health protocols are strictly followed to prevent the transmission of the viral respiratory disease among their employees who physically report to work.

Amid the rising number of employees contracting coronavirus disease, the health official said the agency is discussing the conduct of random testing of workers as recommended by the research group from the University of the Philippines (UP).

The UP Research Team earlier made the proposal after more than 200 personnel of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3 tested positive for COVID-19.

Vergeire said the DOH is still weighing on the proposal as randomized testing is “resource intensive” and the country has limited resources amid the pandemic.

“Hindi ko pa alam kung kakayanin ng ating sistema, yung sinasabing randomized testing,” she said.

“And, for how long will do we do this, di ba? So pag ginawa natin iyan, sabi nga natin ang ating testing is a point in time event. So pag tinest kita ngayon, maaring bukas may bago ka ng exposure, itetest ba kita uli?” she added.

Vergeire also admitted that conducting contact tracing among MRT-3 passengers would be difficult given the number of people who ride the trains every day.

She said the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force are now studying other measures that may be implemented on mass transport apart from temporarily suspending operations.

“Kapag talagang widespread ang community transmission, ‘yung contact tracing hindi na talaga nagwo-work yan,” she said.

“Dito sa nangyari sa MRT na ito, gumagawa tayo ng ibang strategies for us to be able na ma-contain natin. Unang-una nagsara ang MRT. Pangalawa, lahat ng empleyadong apektado pati yung close contacts nila were all quarantined. Pangatlo, they are still trying to gather para ma-test pa rin yung ibang employees nila para somehow ma-contain natin,” she added.

Vergeire also stated that the DOH will release a new set of guidelines on COVID-19 expanded testing which will include more groups and individuals.

Under the current DOH protocol, COVID-19 tests are conducted on individuals manifesting symptoms, with exposure to COVID-19 positive patients, returning overseas Filipino workers as well as frontline workers. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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