The Philippines has now exceeded its COVID-19 testing capacity goal of 50,000 tests by the end of June, the country’s testing czar said on Thursday.
During a Malacanang briefing, Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the national policy against COVID-19, said that the country’s capacity has reached 51,302 as of June 19, up by 2,465 percent from the Philippines’ daily testing capacity of 2,000 in March.
A graph presented showed that the daily testing capacity in May was 34,000 and 3,100 in April.
When asked for the number of actual daily tests by laboratories accredited by the Department of Health (DOH), Dizon said 16,000 per day, double last month’s figure of 8,000. He said the goal is at least 20,000 to 25,000 daily.
Dizon said the turnaround time for the test results is now down to 48 to 72 hours in June from more than two weeks in March.
But data from the Department of Health (DOH) has shown that 13,053 samples or 11,956 individuals were tested on June 23, which is still short of 30,000 target tests per day.
Last May, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said conducting 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day can only be done if there is no shortage of supplies and equipment in the accredited laboratories.
“The 32,000 (COVID-19 tests per day) is the estimated maximum capacity of all licensed labs in the country based on the number of machines, number of human resources, and the operating hours per laboratory,” Vergeire said.
“This does not include yet the factors that may affect the operations of each laboratory,” she said.
Dizon said that there are now 66 COVID-19 laboratories in the country. He said 24 of these are private and 41 are government laboratories while one is a public-private partnership.
He said 612,571 tests have been conducted, as of June 22. Dizon said they aim to reach a million tests by July.
He explained that the increased testing capacity will result in a higher number of cases, but he claimed that the positivity rate has decreased.
“Habang tayo ay nagraramp up ng testing, talagang dadami ‘yung numero na nahahanap natin, pero ang importante nating maintindihan ay ‘yung porsyento nung mga positibo dun sa numero ng tinetest natin,” he said at the briefing.
“At makikita natin ito’y napakalaki na ng binaba, mula halos 20 percent ngayon ay nasa above 5 percent na lang tayo,” he said.
Dizon announced the 50,000 target testing capacity last month, saying this was part of the goal for the Philippines to be able to test up to 2% of the population or two million people.
The increased testing capacity, he said, has also prompted them to recommend to the DOH the expansion of the testing protocol to include persons not displaying symptoms as well as non-medical frontliners.
Dizon also announced the arrival of 1.05 million testing supplies from abroad which he said will further increase the country’s capacity./Stacy Ang