The opening of swab test facilities would help ramp up the country’s testing capacity for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
“The facility is really well-made, well-planned and well-executed. Maganda naman talaga ang lugar, malaki ang lugar at ‘yung mga booths na tinayo dito (The place is nice and spacious and the booths that were set up) more than 60 booths, these will really ramp up our testing capacity,” Duque told reporters during the inspection of the Palacio de Maynila Tent along Roxas Boulevard, one of the mega swabbing centers in Metro Manila.
“This will help us achieve our goal to eventually do 30,000 tests daily by May 30, barring unforeseen circumstances,” Duque added.
As of May 3, the DOH situational report show that the testing capacity of laboratories for Covid-19 has reached the 5,000-mark. Currently there are a total of 22 licensed testing laboratories.
The department is also eyeing to increase the testing capacity to 8,000 daily this month and expand it further to 30,000 tests daily by May 30.
Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Vivencio Dizon, who was designated National Task Force Deputy Chief Implementer of the government’s response against the Covid-19 pandemic and chief coordinator of the government’s Trace, Treat, and Test (3T) program, said the facility, together with other swabbing sites, can perform 5,000 tests per day.
Dizon said Covid-19 testing is a “very delicate process which requires proper training” and so to avoid mistakes in the handling of specimens, encoding and barcoding must be done properly.
“If we can achieve that, the 20,000 OFWs theoretically will finish it in five days and then we can also move on to accept our kababayans from the local government units. This one is ready by tomorrow and the run will be ready Thursday,” he said.
Dizon added that the swabbing sites at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City would be ready this weekend.
Other swabbing facilities are the Enderun Tent in Taguig City and the Philippine Arena, which also serves as a patient care center, in Bulacan.
“‘Yung Philippine Arena matagal kasi gagawa pa tayo ng ganitong tent hindi ‘yung meron na, so, gagawa pa kaya medyo matagal (The Philippine Arena might take longer because we still need to put up a tent like this),” Dizon said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Surgeon General, Col. Nelson Pecache said the facility would be manned by personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire and Protection.
“Once we have organized and systematized the system, 24/7 we can probably produce 2,000 conservatively, 2,000 a day. We’ll be doing a round-the-clock testing operation. Our personnel will be divided into shifts, we’re looking into providing three shifts. Per shift, we’ll provide 65 swabbers, 20 encoders and 10 runners,” Pecache said.
Dizon added that the specimens from the facility would be sent to the Philippine Red Cross laboratory in Mandaluyong City.
“They are capable of processing 8,000 per day. Turn-around time earliest is 24 hours up to 72 hours depending on the volume. If they (OFWs) test negative in the PCR… ‘pag may PCR test na, pwede na sila pauwiin pero home quarantine at babantayan pa rin (if they already have PCR test, they will be sent off for home quarantine but will still be monitored) by the Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government,” he said.
The facility, which is mainly for the testing of land-based and sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), is a project of the Ayala Group, Manila Bulletin, and Razon Group of Companies. (PNA)