The Department of Health (DOH) is getting 185,000 newly developed rapid tests capable of detecting the COVID-19 virus in 45 minutes, Rep. Michael Defensor, of Anakalusugan Partylist, said on Wednesday.
“These are the same rapid COVID-19 tests now being used extensively in America, including hospitals in the State of New York, which has the highest concentration of confirmed cases,” Defensor, House health committee vice chairperson, said.
“The tests will be delivered in incremental weekly shipments, with the initial batch of 3,000 tests arriving in Manila this Friday, April 17. All 185,000 tests will go directly to the DOH, to be deployed as needed,” Defensor said.
The new coronavirus test, also known as Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2, was developed by Sunnydale, California-based biotech firm Cepheid Inc., and approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 21 and subsequently cleared by the Philippines’ own FDA on March 26, according to Defensor.
“We are grateful to the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) chaired by Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan for ordering 160,000 of the tests, and the Asian Development Bank, for ordering the balance of 25,000 tests, all for the DOH,” Defensor said.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has made available up to $1 billion in grants to support dozens of countries, including the Philippines, in the fight against COVID-19 because it threatens to overwhelm public health systems and disrupt existing national programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Defensor said.
Defensor also expressed his appreciation to Cepheid for making the state-of-the-art tests available to the Philippines under its High Burden Developing Country Program, and to Macare Medicals Inc., a member of the PBSP, for facilitating the delivery of the tests.
“There’s no question swift and reliable testing is critical in saving and protecting lives at this extremely difficult time when our healthcare facilities are slowly being overwhelmed by suspected COVID-19 cases,” Defensor said.
Immediate point-of-care testing would enable doctors to quickly identify and manage patients being evaluated for admission to hospitals, Defensor said.
“The new tests are compatible with the automated real-time PCR GeneXpert machines, and we already have no less than 600 of those machines in place in public and private healthcare facilities across the country,” Defensor said, adding that the existing GeneXpert units are also being routinely used by the DOH for rapid tuberculosis diagnosis in the country.
Defensor’s congressional office was briefed by Macare on the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2./Stacy Ang