Three senators have urged the government to use the COVID-19 test kits developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institute for Health as the country aims to test more individuals for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) .
“The country is ramping up COVID-19 testing, but locally manufactured, world-class P1,320 PCR test kits are gathering dust in laboratories due to the inaction of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III,” Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Kiko Pangilinan said in a joint statement Saturday.
“The country is ramping up COVID-19 testing, but locally manufactured, world-class P1,320 PCR test kits are gathering dust in laboratories due to the inaction of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.”
Developed by the UP-National Institute for Health and funded by the DoST, the Filipino test kit continues to face hurdles even as imported brands coming from China and Korea, costing more than double at between P4,000 and P8,000, enter the country without difficulty, they said.
Filipino scientists and doctors have started developing the test kits as early as December last year when reports about the coronavirus surfaced.
The kits have undergone trials and tests, with an interim report showing that they have up to 93.96% sensitivity and up to 98.04% specificity, at a confidence interval of 95%, ranking among the world’s best and performing better than some of the imported kits.
“What seems to be holding Secretary Duque and the DoH back from giving the go-signal for the use and mass production of this Filipino-made, quality yet less expensive test kit? May kumikita ba sa mas mahal na imported test kit?,” the senators said.
The savings that could be generated from this kit are crucial in augmenting our COVID-19 response especially at a time when resources are scarce.
“Is there someone being favored here at the expense of Filipinos who every day face the dangers of getting infected, or who could already be carriers of the virus but are not yet being tested?” they asked.
With the number of COVID-19 cases continuously rising, the DoH cannot afford more missteps in handling the situation because lives are at stake, the senators also said./Stacy Ang