MANILA – The government is hiring more health workers to boost the capacity to do confirmatory tests to detect coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections.

In a virtual presser on Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Department of Health (DOH) has teamed up with the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of University of the Philippines Diliman to deploy over 300 volunteer medical technologists, molecular biologists, lab technicians and researchers to augment laboratory staff in testing centers.

Nograles, also Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) spokesperson, said the DOH also reported that more than 1,400 medical workers completed an online biosafety course in preparation for the government’s expanded testing efforts.

In his April 13 report to Congress the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act No. 11469, President Rodrigo Duterte said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the request of the DOH to hire additional 857 contract of service workers who will be deployed to Covid-19 referral hospitals.

These hospitals are the Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine General Hospital, and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center.

The majority of the health workers are nurses (267), nursing assistants (204), and ward assistants (118).

Other health workers are 85 respiratory therapists , 82 medical officers, 36 ambulance drivers, 35 radiologic technologists and 30 medical equipment technicians.

The hiring of more health workers will cost the DOH PHP35.823 million monthly, the report showed.

To date, Nograles said there are 15 certified laboratories for Covid-19 testing while 28 laboratories are also being evaluated.

As for the testing kits, Nograles said the government will both use rapid testing kits and real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kits.

Duterte, on Monday, ordered the immediate purchase of rapid test kits to further reduce the transmission of the highly-infectious disease.

“I will take the risk. I will order the Health department and everybody,” he said.

Health authorities consider the PCR-based test kits as the “gold standard” for diagnosing Covid-19 infections.

On the other hand, rapid test kits are faster but give less accurate results.

Targeted mass testing is going to start on Tuesday, he added.

As of Tuesday, health authorities said the country has 5,223 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 335 deaths, and 295 recoveries. (PNA)

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