Coronavirus mass testing to begin from April 14
April 05 2020 02:57 AM
Government officials inspect a disinfection booth at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium, one of the quarantine
Government officials inspect a disinfection booth at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium, one of the quarantine facilities for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients, inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Malate, Manila.

By Catherine S Valente/ Manila Times

The government plans to start massive testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) by April 14, when the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine is scheduled to end.
The mass testing comes at a time when there are calls to extend the quarantine to give authorities more time to determine if the disease is fully under control.
Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer at the National Task Force on Covid-19, said the first to be tested will be patients under investigation (PUI) and patients under monitoring (PUMs).
“We are also determined to fast-track the accreditation of subnational laboratories; so, we can start the massive testing of PUIs and PUMs,” Galvez said in a virtual press conference.
Galvez said there is a need for more testing facilities because the number of Covid cases in the country continues to rise.
On Friday, the Department of Health (DoH) reported 29 new Covid-19 deaths, the biggest single-day toll so far.
Galvez said the country now has nine accredited hospitals that can do the tests.
“We are asking the DoH to expedite other hospitals’ requests for accreditation for testing, so, we will have other capabilities for testing,” he said.
The PUIs and PUMs — those with Covid symptoms and those who had contact with known cases — will be quarantined as soon as facilities are available, he said.
The government plans to convert several large buildings into quarantine facilities to ease the load of hospitals overwhelmed with patients, Galvez said.
In the next 10 days, the Rizal Sports Complex, World Trade Center, Philippine International Convention Center and Cultural Center of the Philippines will be converted into “mass quarantine facilities.”
“We will also deploy three doctors and 50 nurses at the Rizal Memorial Sports complex coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Galvez said.
Other possible facilities are the Ultra stadium in Pasig City, the Duty Free Philippines building in Paranaque City, and the Amoranto sports complex, Quezon City Memorial Circle complex, Veterans Medical Center and Quezon Institute, all in Quezon City.
Galvez said Commission on Higher Education chairman Prospero de Vera also offered the
convention centres in Bicol and other areas as quarantine centres. “I’m already talking to the members of Iglesia ni Cristo. Hopefully we’ll be able to secure the Philippine Area as soon as possible,” he said.
Dr Beverly Ho, Special Assistant to Health Secterary Francisco Duque 3rd, explained that the spike in death toll is due to the backlog of casualties only being reported now. A total of 4,344 patients have been tested for the disease, and 1,275 were negative.
The DoH said there are 1,154 PUIs and 6,321 PUMs.
With more Covid treatment centres opening, the Office of Civil Defence (OCD) has started to distribute the personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical frontliners.
The first batch of 900,000 PPE which were purchased by the DoH arrived in Manila last week. Ricardo Jalad, the OCD administrator, said the first batch was bought from China.
Jalad said the OCD coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard in facilitating the distribution of around 12,000 protective supplies to Covid referral hospitals. 
He said 2,780 protective equipment were delivered to San Lazaro Hospital; 2,000 to the Philippine General Hospital; 770 to East Avenue Medical Center; 2,800 to the Lung Center of the Philippines; 2,590 to Dr Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium; and 1,100 to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center. Each PPE set consists of goggles, coverall, head cover, gloves, shoe cover, surgical mask and a surgical gown.
The remaining PPE sets are expected to arrive between April 6 and 24, Jalad said.
As the government intensified its Covid response, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda called for a two-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine. Salceda said a “premature lifting” of the quarantine is “against science, economics, and history.”
The Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease has the last say on whether to extend the quarantine.
Salceda said “the damage to the economy will be much bigger” if the country will start all over again, citing that the Covid-19 has not yet peaked.
“It’s wishful thinking to suggest that we’ve reached the peak. No data scientist would say that, and certainly no doctor or public health expert would be enthusiastic about lifting the ECQ at this stage in our country’s healthcare capacity,” he said.
A health reform advocate also predicted that the quarantine will most likely to be extended as the government start mass testing for Covid-19.
“If you will look at the date, you will see that it will probably extended,” Dr Tony Leachon told radio DZMM.
Leachon, who was also tapped as special adviser to the national task force, said he had discussed with Galvez the parameters on lifting the lockdown.
He said the quarantine will not be lifted until the number of Covid cases hits a plateau.
Leachon is for extending the lockdown to give way to mass testing for the virus.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, and member of the Joint Oversight Committee that oversees the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, praised the DoH for amending its Covid testing protocol to include health workers.

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