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Backlog Blues: Labs Are Overwhelmed with Over 12,000 COVID-19 Samples That Need Validation

Asymptomatic people are getting tested, too, hence the influx of samples.
by Clara Rosales
Jul 10, 2020
Photo/s: Pexels

The country still has over 12,000 in sample backlogs in laboratories nationwide, the Department of Health (DOH) said on July 10. 

Various reasons cause this delay, such as the "overwhelming" arrival of samples brought about by new testing protocols, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual forum.

"Ang backlogs natin ngayon medyo lumaki, 12,208 testing backlogs. May malaking contributors dito katulad ng mga laboratoryo na kakabukas lang and they got overwhelmed noong dumating ang mga sample sa kanila," Vergeire said.

Aside from the influx of samples, a lack of supplies also adds to the problem.

"'Yung iba naman, it is still because of supplies na kailangan natin at 'yung iba marami kasing samples na dumadating ngayon dahil nag-expand na tayo ng protocol," she added.

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To recall, the Palace announced last week that even people who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms would be tested. Previously, only those showing symptoms of the respiratory disease would be tested, along with the people the individual had contact with. Those coming in from foreign countries also had to be tested and undergo quarantine.

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In order to finish the 12,000 backlogs, Vergeire said laboratories would be limiting the number of samples they can accept in a day.

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To ease the load of busier labs, the DOH said referrals could be made so other nearby laboratories can process the sample instead.

"Pag ang isang laboratory ay nagkakaroon na ng problema like backlogs, puwede natin hingin ang tulong ng isang laboratory na malapit sa kaniya para ma-share niya 'yung burden of these tests that are being processed," Vergeire said.

The country currently has 83 COVID-accredited laboratories. Of that number, 62 can run the RT-PCR test, the gold standard for COVID-19 testing, while 21 are GeneXpert labs.

The daily testing average for July was at 19,459.

It takes about 24 to 48 hours to get results from a GenXpert laboratory, while RT-PCR labs take 50 hours. 

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