Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) is confident of the method the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) uses in testing samples from patients under investigation (PUIs) for possible coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection.

In a press briefing on Wednesday at the DOH main office in Manila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the test kits used by RITM are different from the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits used by Japan and South Korea.

“I have spoken to their ambassadors, and the reason I asked South Korea because it is also an outlier because it is able to test 15,000 a day. So, I’ve asked them, not to challenge (them): ‘What is the basis of your rapid diagnostic test? Has this been cleared by the World Health Organization (WHO)?’,” Duque said, reacting to criticisms that the DOH was not testing enough number of people.

“We use a far more tedious testing procedure which takes 24 to 48 hours for results to come out. I’m not going to use an RDT that is certified by a credible third party that will say: ‘Yes, this particular RDT has passed stringent standards of quality, safety, specificity and sensitivity’,” he said.

Citing that RDTs could produce “false negatives” or “false positives”, Duque said its use might result in risks and waste of the DOH’s limited resources which must be used for the care of positive patients.

“Meron din tayong scientist eh gumawa ng RDTs, pero sabi ko padaanin mo sa WHO para may (We also have a scientist who created RDTs, but I said let the WHO check on it, so there’s a) third party that’s going to vet because I don’t want a false positive and a false negative result. Testing is not that easy, you have to be very, very exact,” he added.

On Wednesday, Duque reported that for four weeks, the Philippines has not recorded instances of local transmission and new Covid-19 cases.

As of Thursday, latest data from the agency’s tracker showed that there are only 37 PUIs admitted in different health facilities nationwide while 629 have been discharged for testing negative for Covid-19.

The DOH is expanding its testing capacity by adding laboratories that could test specimens from cases the RITM can no longer accommodate.

“We now have five sub-national laboratories that are up for accreditation by the RITM — one in Visayas, one in Mindanao, one in Northern Luzon and two in Metro Manila. We have eight weeks timeline for this, but I said maybe we can do it in four weeks, but we’re waiting for additional logistics and support, given the global shortage,” Duque said. (ia/PNA)

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