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‘Access To Testing Will Be Available To All’

By Angela Casco

Experts have said it like a broken record—testing is key to beating coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). The World Health Organization (WHO) has said in a notice that diagnostic testing for Covid-19 is critical to tracking the virus, controlling it, informing authorities and medical experts of relevant details, and suppressing transmission.

South Korea, one of the world’s role models in effectively flattening the curve, has attributed its success to its widespread, accessible, and aggressive testing methods using free, 10-minute tests in phone booth-style testing facilities, drive-through testing stations, and walk-in centers.

The country of 51 million has already tested 270,000 people by mid-March, just a month after becoming the country with the second largest Covid-19 outbreak next to China. That amounts to 5,200 tests per million inhabitants.

This comprehensive testing approach, combined with its contact tracing strategy and immediate treatment, has not only curbed the spread of the novel coronavirus, but has also prevented the need for a strict lockdown. Days with no new local cases have come sooner for the country, too.

In the Philippines, where only 0.1 percent of Filipinos have been tested as of April 30, based on DOH’s April 2020 statistics and the country’s current population of 106.7 million, authorities are planning to ramp up testing capacity through four mega swabbing centers.

Meant to be specimen-collecting facilities, these centers will have multiple booths manned by personal protective equipment-wearing medical staff.

All the swabbed samples will be transferred to and examined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), as well as the Philippine Red Cross’ molecular laboratories in its office in Mandaluyong and in Clark, both of which can run up to 8,000 tests per day.

Those who need testing—Covid-19 carriers and immediate members of their families, suspected and probable cases, persons under monitoring (PUMs) who had contact with Covid patients, and frontliners, and health workers—will be transported to and from the swabbing centers by bus, as arranged by the Department of Transportation, though no routes with specific pick up and drop off points are available at the moment.

Meant to be specimen-collecting facilities, these centers will have multiple booths manned by personal protective equipment-wearing medical staff.

Initial locations of the swabbing centers are within Metro Manila, including the Philippine Sports Stadium inside the Philippine Arena (northern sector), the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City (southern sector), Enderun Colleges in Taguig City (eastern sector), and the Palacio de Maynila Tent in Roxas Boulevard (western sector), with a combined total of 250 booths. The government and its partners from the private sector are in charge of either refurbishing existing structures or constructing makeshift facilities.

Authorities and volunteers are hoping to conduct 5,000 tests per day in all four swabbing centers, and achieve a total of 30,000 test capacity per day by the end of May.


“This is a big operation that we will be doing through the Department of Health, and the various laboratories led by RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) at ng Philippine Red Cross,” says Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer secretary of the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19. “Sama-sama ito [na] bayanihan ulit para ma-test natin ang napakaraming Pilipino (Let’s do this together, bayanihan style, to test many Filipinos).”

Massive testing through these centers will be implemented soon in the provinces, too.

“In the coming days, we will be visiting provinces in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to see the needs of our fellow Filipinos,” says Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer secretary of the National Action Plan Against Covid-19. “Access to testing will be available to all.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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