Monday, July 4, 2022

Gov’t Eyes Use Of Over 400 Testing Labs For Non-Covid Diseases

Gov’t Eyes Use Of Over 400 Testing Labs For Non-Covid Diseases

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The government mulls to maximize the country’s Covid-19 testing laboratories nationwide to test even non-coronavirus diseases, presidential adviser for Covid-19 response, Secretary Vince Dizon, said Wednesday.

Dizon, who is also the country’s testing czar, said there are over 400 Covid-19 testing laboratories have been established nationwide—either operated by the private sector or the government.

“When we started this nightmare of Covid-19 in early 2020, we had [only] one laboratory that could test Covid-19,” Dizon said.

He recalled the country has to send specimens to Australia for Covid-19 testing with only 1,000 test kits being used per day for the entire country.

“Now we have over 400 [laboratories] nationwide. This is really the effort of the Department of Health,” he said. “Talagang napadami natin ang testing labs nationwide (We really increased our testing labs nationwide).”

Despite having many laboratories nationwide, Dizon said the Philippine government’s strategy in Covid-19 testing has been “risk-based.”

“Ang tinitest lang talaga natin ay yung sa tingin natin kailangan itest. Sino-sino ang mga iyan? Iyan yung may mga symptoms, yung mga close contact and vulnerable (We are just testing those who we think should be tested. Who are they? They are the ones with symptoms and the close contacts),” he added.

Dizon emphasized the government has never advocated for “mass testing”.

“Unang-una, kasi ang Covid, hindi mo naman talaga dapat itest yung hindi mataas ang risk na magka-Covid o yung exposure niya ng Covid (First of all, you don’t need to test those who are not a high risk to infection or those with low exposure),” he said.

Under Alert Level 1 status, Dizon explained those individuals who are unvaccinated or have higher exposure risk to infection are prioritized in Covid-19 testing, pursuant to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Resolution No. 148-B and No. 149, s. 2021.

In addition, testing using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is recommended and prioritized for senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, and healthcare workers.

The protocol added that testing “shall be optional for other groups not stated above” and shall not be recommended for asymptomatic close contacts unless symptoms will develop and should immediately isolate regardless of test results. Instead, symptom monitoring is recommended.

Dizon said the Department of Health is planning to maximize the use of these laboratories even for non-Covid diseases.

“We can use them to test for dengue, we use them to test tuberculosis, and we can use that to test for other chronic diseases. And that really gives us now this whole network of laboratories that can best serve our public health system. So that’s the plan,” he said.

Dizon added: “it’s a long response but I think it’s important for the public to understand, what will happen to these laboratories.” (PNA)

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