Gov't aims to test all suspected cases, frontliners in high-risk areas by May 15
MANILA, Philippines – The government gave itself a May 15 deadline to conduct novel coronavirus tests for all suspected cases and frontliners based in high-risk areas.
National Task Force COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr announced this on Tuesday, April 28, as he faced the peace and order cluster of the House Defeat COVID-19 committee in a virtual technical working group meeting.
"We are planning to [test] all the PUIs (patients under investigation) and suspected COVID cases and frontliners not later than on 15 May 2020, so that the red areas can be evaluated to become orange or yellow areas," Galvez said.
May 15 is also the last day of the extended lockdown imposed in red areas or those deemed to be at high risk for COVID-19: National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon except Aurora province, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Iloilo province, Cebu province, Cebu City, and Davao City. (READ: Cebu, Davao City, other areas in VisMin on lockdown until May 15)
But the task force's testing deadline for NCR is much earlier – May 7.
Galvez explained this is because the government believes if the curve is flattened or if the rate of transmission in NCR is slowed down, then the fight against COVID-19 would be "70% finished."
"We are planning to conduct massive and expanded testing aggressively, with the testing of all the PUI and the PUMs (persons under monitoring) and the frontliners in NCR not later than May 7, 2020," Galvez said.
"We considered that the NCR is the epicenter, considering that it has an affectation of 70% and we believe that the NCR is the center of gravity. Once we have finished and we are able to flatten the curve in the NCR, we believe that we are 70% finished and [have won] the fight against COVID," he added.
The government started its push for massive testing for COVID-19 on April 14.
The Department of Health is no longer using the PUM and PUI classifications to refer to COVID-19 cases, however. Instead, individuals suspected of having COVID-19 who have not been tested yet are now called suspected cases, while those awaiting their test results are called probable cases.
On Tuesday, Galvez said the Philippine government also gave itself until May 15 to conduct 20,000 COVID-19 tests per day and until May 30 to increase testing capacity to 30,000 a day. The goal is to also hasten the release of test results within 24 to 48 hours.
But the task at hand is enormous. The Philippines only has 19 fully operational testing facilities, many dealing with backlogs. As of Tuesday, these 19 testing facilities have the capacity to conduct 6,320 tests per day.
Also as of Tuesday, a total of 7,958 people in the country have become infected with COVID-19, 530 cases of which were fatal. Still, 975 patients have already recovered from the disease. – Rappler.com