Local governments must coordinate with Health Dept. before buying COVID-19 test kits

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — Local governments cannot just buy and use COVID-19 testing kits right away, as they have to first coordinate with the Health Department, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Sunday.

Under the revised guidelines on the so-called enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, local government units must first work with the Health Department before “acquiring, purchasing and utilizing testing kits within their respective territorial jurisdictions.”

Marikina City has bought its own test kits and set up its own lab to test for COVID-19.

The country has seen a spike in cases in the past two days, with the total number of people getting COVID-19 rising to 380 and the death toll climbing to 25.

Health Department spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire attributed this to increased testing.

Nograles added that the country’s capacity for testing is being expanded as smaller laboratories are being accredited to perform tests alongside the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

The order for local governments to coordinate first with the Health Department before buying test kits is part of the revised guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the so-called enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Other revisions include a short extension for business process outsourcing (BPO) and export-oriented companies to set up alternative work arrangements, giving them until Sunday, 11:59 p.m. to have these organized.

It also extended the accreditation period for journalists until March 26, but limited the number of those who can be accredited to just half of each media company’s workforce.

Employees in the manufacturing of food, essential and hygiene products, medicine and medical products, retail establishments, logistics, hospitals and medical clinics, food preparations and water refilling stations, delivery services, power, energy, water, IT and telecommunications, BPOs and airlines are also exempted from quarantine.

The Health Department has reported 380 cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 25 of them turning fatal. Fifteen of those who have contracted the disease, caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus, have recovered.

To contain the spread of the disease, Duterte has placed the entirety of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine, restricting people's movement.