MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Tuesday said scaled-down operations at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s primary testing center for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) specimen, is temporary.
In a virtual presser, Cabinet Secretary and IATF Spokesperson Karlo Nograles made this remark after the RITM announced that it has scaled down its operations “in consideration of the safety of its staff responding to Covid-19 Public Health Emergency beginning April 16, 2020 until April 24, 2020.”
Nograles assured that the country’s 17 subnational laboratories and Covid-19 partner laboratories will receive more specimens to prevent delays in testing and releasing of results.
“Even if the RITM has limited already their testing because of the 40 health workers that were infected by Covid-19… the backlog will be resolved through the 17 sub-national laboratories that are operating right now,” he said.
Nograles emphasized anew the importance of accrediting testing centers to ensure that biosafety is followed, since the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, is highly infectious.
“Kaya nga hindi tayo puwede basta-basta mag-accredit ng laboratory (That’s why we cannot just accredit laboratories) because again the exposure to the Covid-19 virus is too great,” he said.
According to its advisory, the RITM would only process specimens from Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Pasay City beginning April 17.
In an interview on CNN, RITM director Dr. Celia Carlos bared that at least 43 RITM staff members tested positive for Covid-19.
Nograles assured that the RITM employees will be given appropriate care until they are restored to their full health.
He also said the government will also be deploying more employees to the RITM so that it could resume operations as soon as possible.
“We need to find health workers who are healthy, obviously not infected, who can come in to the RITM so that we can ensure that the RITM goes back to normal operations while we take care of the health workers ng (of) RITM who were infected by Covid-19,” he said.
The country’s 17 subnational laboratories that have the capacity to test Covid-19 are:
–Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), Muntinlupa City
–San Lazaro Hospital, Manila
–Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Baguio City
–Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu City
–Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao City
–University of the Philippines (UP) National Institutes of Health, Manila
–Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon City
–Western Visayas Medical Center, Iloilo City
–Bicol Public Health Laboratory, Legazpi City, Albay
–St Luke’s Medical Center, Quezon City
–Victoriano Luna Hospital, Quezon City
–The Medical City, Pasig City
–Makati Medical Center, Makati City
–Detoxicare Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, Mandaluyong City
–St Luke’s Medical Center, Taguig City
–Philippine Red Cross, Mandaluyong City
–Chinese General Hospital, Manila
Aside from the 17 subnational labs, Nograles said the Philippine Red Cross will also be inaugurating a new facility capable of Covid-19 testing.
A total of 40 more facilities are already in the pipeline for accreditation by the Department of Health, he added.
Currently, a total of 766 health workers have been infected with Covid-19. Of this, 339 are doctors and 242 are nurses while at least 22 health workers have died.
As of Monday, health authorities reported a total of 6,459 cases of coronavirus, with 428 deaths and 613 recoveries. (PNA)