Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the government was struggling to perform mass Covid-19 testing as other countries stockpiled on rapid testing kits, leaving the country to depend on its 30 licensed laboratories and tests sponsored by the private sector.

“In an ideal world, dapat po lahat ng tao ma-testing pero alam ninyo, una, ang hirap na nga nitong PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, trenta pa lang ang laboratories natin, ang gusto nating mangyari hindi bababa sa nobenta iyang mga PCR testing centers natin,” Roque said in a Malacañang briefing on Monday.

Roque added that test kits were hard to acquire, as other countries such as mass-producer China and the United States were prioritizing the use of testing kits on their citizens.

“Sa katunayan, alam ko po as a fact na napakahirap na ngayon sa Tsina maglabas ng rapid test kits dahil sila mismo gusto nilang i-test ang lahat ng mga Tsino. Sa Wuhan po, ang kanilang target, 11 million testing sa pamamagitan ng polymerase chain reaction at rapid tests. Kaya po iyong Chinese Customs hinaharang din iyong paglabas ng kanilang mga rapid test kits, bukod pa doon sa katotohanan na iyong Amerika, binibili lahat ang rapid test kits available,” Roque said.

“So, pahirapan po iyan and that is why we are giving recognition to the initiative of the private sector na sila na mismo ang bumili ng rapid test kits para ma-test ang kanilang mga empleyado,” he added.

Roque also said that he expected a spike in the number of positive cases in the country as social distancing measures were violated by mall-goers who flocked to reopened malls last Saturday.

He echoed on the government’s call to not be complacent, and reminded Filipinos to always observe and follow social distancing rules, as the entire country remained under quarantine.

As of May 18, the Philippines has 12,718 Covid-19 positive cases, with 2,729 recoveries and 831 deaths. John Ezekiel J. Hirro