MANILA – Congressman Eric Go Yap gladly accepted an apology by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) after it allegedly made a “clerical oversight” but still the error left a cloud of doubt on the capability and integrity of the institute in the country’s fight against the killer disease.
On Friday, RITM made a public apology to Yap on the release of a false positive COVID-19 diagnosis that sent a serious, chilling effect on lawmakers and government officials who happened to be around with Yap in meetings in preparation for Congress’ special session on President Duterte’s special powers in the fight against the virus.
President Duterte and the rest of the lawmakers immediately went on self-quarantine after the RITM declared Yap COVID-19 positive Wednesday, 25 March 2020.
According to RITM, the mistake was allegedly due to an encoding error and was discovered late Thursday night by its molecular biology laboratory.
The RITM uses the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing procedure, considered as the gold standard in detecting the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.
As it is, the said PCR testing procedure takes about 24-48 hours before results on COVID-19 tests are obtained because of the backlog of tests the research facility has currently on hand DOH Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said.
Upon learning the mix-up, Malacañang reprimanded the RITM “to be more careful in releasing test results” even as it welcomed Yap’s revised diagnosis.
“We are pleased to hear about the COVID-19 negative test of Cong. Eric Yap. While the erroneous reporting of Cong Yap’s COVID-19 positive has caused alarm and anxiety to those who had close physical contact with him and made them undergo self- quarantine nevertheless such good news is welcome,” said Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“We appeal to the RITM to be more certain of the test results before releasing them to the patients or to their doctors to avoid such unfortunate incident,” he said.
Yap is currently the House appropriations committee chairman.
Rapid testing kits
As this developed, some quarters are seriously urging the DOH to consider using rapid testing kits that was used in containing the virus in Wuhan, China and many parts of Europe.
One of this is no other than ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Niña Taduran who said that the DOH should greatly consider the use of rapid COVID-19 testing kits.
Taduran said the DOH should not only rely on PCR kits in order to conduct mass testing of people with symptoms related to Covid-19.
China has donated 100,000 test kits while Sen. Senator Manny Pacquiao and Alibaba’s Jack Ma also provided 57,000 COVID-19 test kits but so far only 2,287 have allegedly been tested by DOH health workers.
Taduran, an Asst. House Majority Leader, also asked the DOH to immediately help local government units which are attempting to put up laboratories and testing areas.
“Mass testing has helped South Korea flatten the curve. This will enable the front-liners to identify immediately who needs to be isolated, and this will prevent the spread of the virus,” says Taduran.
Taduran is also wondering why the rapid test kits developed by the Filipino scientists isn’t available yet after being approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s a shame that UK researchers have developed a Covid-19 detection kit based on an existing technology in our country which is being used to test viral spread in chickens. They have other rapid test kits already approved for use. Why can’t we do the same here? There are thousands of donated rapid testing kits, why don’t we use them?” Taduran asked. (ia/sovereignph.com)