DOH sends 100,000 test kits to RITM, testing centers nationwide

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — The country's main novel coronavirus testing center and other subnational laboratories nationwide have received more testing kits, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.

Health spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire told CNN Philippines the DOH has distributed the 100,000 coronavirus disease or COVID-19 testing kits donated by the Chinese Embassy to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao, Baguio General Hospital in Baguio, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila City, and Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

The bulk of the testing kits were allocated to RITM based on laboratory capacity. RITM can test 600 people per day, the other laboratories can do 100 tests, while San Lazaro Hospital can conduct 50 tests per day. Vergeire said this will gradually increase as the hospitals ease into their new task.

"Hindi kailangnang mangamba ng ating mga kababayan na magkakaubusan tayo at sila ay hindi magkakaroon. Basta pumasok sa protocol at guidelines natin ang kanilang kundisyon, itetest po kayo," she said.

[Translation: There is no need to worry that you won't be tested. As long as you meet the criteria for testing, you will be tested.]

Despite the increase in the number of testing kits in the country -- with more donations pouring in -- the health official said the guidelines for testing remain the same. Under the revised guideline issued by DOH, those with severe symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing and prolonged cough and fever will be tested. Elderly, those with preexisting sickness, and women with high-risk pregnancy will be tested even if they are only showing mild symptoms. Commonly reported COVID-19 symptoms are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

DOH is also eyeing the opening of two additional COVID-19 testing centers this week: The Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo and the Bicol Public Health Laboratory.

In the country, 396 have been infected and 33 have died because of the viral disease. Eighteen have recovered.

The disease is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when people infected with the virus cough or sneeze.

To prevent infection, authorities are urging people to practice regular hand washing, cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with those who show respiratory symptoms.