CEBU CITY – The National Task Force (NTF) against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is setting up more molecular laboratories in Cebu to bolster the capacity here for up to 10,000 tests per day.
Vivencio Dizon, deputy implementer for the NTF, said in a virtual press conference at the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) here that the key to prevent another wave of the coronavirus is to boost the testing capacity in the locality.
For his part, NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez who also attended the virtual presser here said second wave of coronavirus is possible if the people become complacent, citing the resurgence of influenza illness in the US during the 70s as an example.
Dizon said the national government is on track of increasing the testing capacity at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center-Subnational Laboratory (VSMMC-SNL) and the Cebu TB Reference Laboratory Molecular Facility for Covid-19 Testing (CTRL-MFCT) run by the Department of Health in Region 7 (DOH-7).
“Two automated extractor machines (will be installed at the two public facilities) and today (Friday) we brought one technician who will install them. These automated extractor machines can increase exponentially the number of tests of the two laboratories. They can do a minimum of 2,000 tests each per day,” Dizon said.
The two public laboratories are now functioning along with Allegiant Regional Care, a privately-owned medical facility in Lapu-Lapu.
Dizon also bared that the NTF is installing a Covid-19 laboratory at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) that will test travelers who would come to Cebu.
Galvez said the task force considered the “influx” of people coming from abroad which could be another reason of resurgence of the virus.
“If we open travel, if we open tourism business, if we are not prepared yet, there is a possibility that we will have a spike of new cases,” Galvez said.
The national government, he said, is setting up one-stop shop for travelers who would be tested before they can enter the country as tourists.
If they get positive test results, the travelers will get a mandatory 14-day quarantine. On the other hand, they will be released and allowed entry here if the test will be negative.
Another laboratory donated by a pharmaceutical company will also be installed at the Cebu Doctor’s Hospital, a privately-owned medical facility here. In two to three weeks time, Dizon said, this privately-run laboratory can do as much as 2,000 test per day.
Dizon also said the Philippine Red Cross is also planning to set up a Covid-19 laboratory in Cebu that can run at least 4,000 tests per day.
He is hoping that 5,000 to 7,000 testing capacity could be achieved in the next two to three weeks, while expecting to accomplish the 10,000 target per day in the next two to three months.
“We also want to decentralize the laboratories in Central Visayas so that other island provinces don’t have to go to Cebu to have the people tested,” Dizon said.
Galvez, meanwhile, commended the three mayors in Cebu and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino, for a well-coordinated effort to prevent contagion of the novel coronavirus.
Dino, for his part, said the opening of the new laboratories will be helpful in welcoming back to Cebu stranded overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) that will be tested before they are allowed to go back to their homes.
Mayors Edgardo Labella, Jonas Cortes and Junard Chan of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu joined in the presser along with DOH-7 regional director Jaime Bernadas and other officials. (IA/PNA)