Maria Rosario Vergeire (Source: RTVM)

Due to various “issues” confronting the Health Department , the Philippines’ average capacity to conduct daily testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains at 8,000 to 9,000 per day, according to Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire.

Vergeire made the statement after the National Task Force has committed a maximum capacity of conducting 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of May.

READ: Palace says PH has breached daily Covid-19 testing capacity goal of 30,000

“We already reached our maximum capacity of conducting 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day dati pa with the expansion of our laboratories in terms of number of laboratories na nilisensiyahan na natin, but that maximum capacity does not factor in operational issues of the laboratories,” Vergeire stated.

“We are averaging 8,000 to 9,000 per day. Bumabangon pa lang tayo because of operational issues encountered in the past katulad nung nasira ang Bicol laboratory at UP NIH (National Institute of Health). Nasira rin iyong exhaust ng Western Visayas laboratory, at ‘yung Lung Center [of the Philippines], noong Monday lang rin sila nakapag-test ulit,” she added.

She also clarified that supplies of personal protective equipment for accredited laboratories are hard to come by amidst the global shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Iyong supplies po ng laboratories, erratic rin po. Kailangan po ma re-distribute from time to time. ‘Yung requirement na lang po na face mask na N95, from 3M po dapat. May mga papasok po sa darating na araw, sa tulong na rin po ng private sector, para po ma-ramp up natin ang ating testing,” Vergeire explained.

“The actual number of tests, which is 8,000 to 9,000, is what we can do for now. Pero meron po tayong maximum capacity na 30,000 per day, sans any obstacles involving operational issues. The limited supply of laboratory supplies is the major limiting factor of our laboratories,” she added.

As per DOH protocol, persons with COVID-19 symptoms and those with exposure to COVID-19 patients are required to undergo COVID-19 testing using the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction test.

In May 25, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the Philippines has surpassed its target Covid-19 daily testing capacity of 30,000 Covid-19 as of May 20.

“Naabot na po natin ang 30,000 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests per day. Ang original target po ay 30,000 by May 30 pero noong May 20 po, nakaabot na po tayo sa 32,100 tests per day. Nalampasan po natin ang ating target,” Roque said in a televised briefing. (RJ Espartinez)