Maria Rosario Vergeire (Source: RTVM)

Two months after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a country-wide lockdown, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced on Thursday that the government is planning to revise the country’s target maximum coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing capacity per day to meet the operational situations of the laboratories processing the tests.

This was revealed three days after the Health department countered Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s claims that steering 32,000 COVID-19 tests per day is possible only if there are no shortage of supplies, equipment and manpower in the 36 laboratories processing the results 

“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.

“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,” she added.

Vergeire also clarified that even though big laboratories have the capability to operate 24/7 to meet the testing demands amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, other small laboratories can’t do the same.

“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.” 

“Laboratories are not required to do 24 hours a day. What they are required is to operate seven days a week,” she added.

According to DOH’s protocol, only persons with COVID-19 symptoms and who were exposed to COVID-19 patients are allowed to undergo a Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction COVID-19-test.

Initially, the Duterte administration targeted to conduct 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of May and 50,000 COVID-19 tests per day by June.  (RJ Espartinez)