The government will adjust the country’s daily COVID-19 testing target in order to make room for the different operational situations of the laboratories conducting and processing the tests, Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on May 28.
To recall, DOH clarified Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement and said that conducting 32,000 COVID-19 tests a day is possible, but only if there’s enough supplies, tools, equipment, and manpower in the 36 COVID-accredited laboratories.
“Iyong sinabi ni spokesperson Roque, that is without the factor which we have identified and have caused delays in the laboratory operations. Ito ay atin pong nirerebisa,” Vergeire said.
The operating hours of laboratories were not yet considered in the earlier estimations, but now they will be to determine a more realistic target.
“Nirerebisa po natin ang ating estimations, may nilagay na po kami na variable na number of operating hours, among others, which we will be deducting [sa target] because these will count for operational issues, para mas maging realistic ang kanilang target.”
According to Vergeire, big laboratories operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but smaller ones can’t operate for the whole day.
“Seven days a week po, dapat lahat po ng laboratories [ay] bukas. Nagtu-24/7 na po ang iba, especially the big laboratories, pero iyong iba ay nasa 16 hours pa lang.”
Operating for 24 hours a day seems like a lot, but Vergeire said labs are not at all required to be processing for the whole day: “Laboratories are not required to do 24 hours a day. What they are required is to operate seven days a week.”
Only individuals with COVID-19 symptoms and individuals who interacted with or were exposed to COVID-19 patients must undergo the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction COVID-19-test, or RT-PCR test. This is in line with DOH protocols for COVID-19 testing.
Originally, the government had a daily testing target of 30,000 by May 31, and 50,000 by June. Given the limitations and shortages, it seems this number may have to be reduced.