MANILA – The government pushes to expand the country’s testing capacity, procure more testing kits, and set up additional testing centers and patient care centers to halt the spread of dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), a ranking official said.

National Task Force (NTF) Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., also presidential peace adviser, on Friday said the government is preparing for the procurement of 900,000 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing kits and 2 million rapid testing kits.

He added that the protocols for proper usage of the PCR and rapid testing kits are also being finalized by the task force’s technical level.

The government, he said, will purchase the testing kits along with other medical equipment and supplies to capacitate accredited national and sub-national testing laboratories in the country.

The additional PCR and rapid testing kits cost roughly PHP3.2 billion and will be purchased by the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The procurement process is yet to be finalized.

Galvez also reported that several testing laboratories are now being assessed by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

He said the testing centers of some 57 hospitals are lined up for approval.

Each hospital has undergone the following assessment stages: self-assessment (stage 1), validation (stage 2), compliance (stage 3), proficiency testing (stage 4), and full-scale implementation (stage 5).

About 17 of them, he said, are already at the “Stage 5” of the accreditation process.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is set to operate its Covid-19 testing center on Tuesday, April 21, which could accommodate 10,000 tests per day.

The PRC’s testing center is located in its national headquarters in Edsa corner Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City.

Quarantine facilities

Meanwhile, Galvez said the additional “new mega quarantine facilities” outside Metro Manila are set to be operational and functional.

The government, he said, is already preparing the Asean Convention Center in Pampanga, the New Clark City Government Building, and the New Clark City Athletes’ Village in Capas, Tarlac to be used as ‘isolation facilities’ for suspected and probable Covid-19 carriers.

These facilities, he said, can accommodate 1,700 individuals.

“Dito po natin dadalhin ang mga pasyente mula sa Pampanga at Tarlac, at maging ang mga galing sa ibang karatig-lalawigan sa Region 3 (patients from Pampanga, Tarlac, and its neighboring provinces in Region 3 can be admitted here),” he said.

He added the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan converted as a quarantine facility is already near in its completion, “however, it is ready to accept patients as per Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).”

The facility is expected to accept patients from Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, Quezon City and Bulacan.

The Philippine Sports Arena in Pasig, he said, is also ready to cater to 156 patients who have contracted the deadly virus.

He said there are already 2,780 quarantine facilities nationwide that can accommodate up to 167,781 suspected and probable Covid-19 carriers.

Some private passenger vessels, he said, were also converted as quarantine ship facilities for repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Galvez said there is a need to implement the national action plan on Covid-19 down to the regional, provincial and city levels.

“When it comes to flattening the curve, it is essential to include the local government units (LGUs) in the planning process,” he said, noting that the LGUs are considered to be the “stewards of health-system and first responders.”

He said LGUs have vital roles in mitigating and controlling the spread of the deadly virus “as they are the ones who know the happening on the ground.”

Galvez cited Pampanga’s efforts to contain the spread of the Covid-19 in their province.

“The LGU established quarantine areas for OFWs, Covid-19 patients, and persons under investigation. They’re able to contain the virus with their modeling,” he said.

He said the LGUs of Tarlac and Pampanga are practicing good efforts in responding to the Covid-19 emergency.

Galvez reiterated that the government is always doubling its efforts to mitigate the impact of the contagion. (PNA)

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