China opens COVID-19 lab in Pampanga, donates more healthcare supplies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 10) — The Chinese Embassy said it has launched the Huo-Yan Molecular and Diagnostic Pathology Laboratory in Pampanga to help the country boost its daily testing capacity and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease.

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian, and Chinese Embassy Deputy Chief and Minister Counselor Tan QingSheng, led the May 8 opening ceremony at the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital (JBLMRH) at San Fernando City.

The event was attended by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Asian Development Bank Vice President Ahmed Saeed, and other local government officials and medical center chiefs.

With the new facility, the country can now test an additional 3,000 samples daily, "which will pave the way for the resumption of work and normal life at the earliest," the embassy said in a press statement.

Tan expressed gratitude to the Philippine government, as well as the ADB, which helped fund the project.

"Large-scale detection is crucial to contain the virus," he said.

The Huo-Yan laboratory, which was developed by the Chinese BGI company, helped Wuhan in the COVID-19 fight, according to the embassy official.

"Viruses do not respect borders," he pointed out. "Unity and cooperation is the only way [we will be able] to meet challenges."

The technology has also been exported to more than 20 countries, including Australia, Denmark, France, Italy, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates, Tan added.

Nograles, on the other hand, thanked China on behalf of the local government, emphasizing that countries should work together and support each other during these trying times.

"It's very important for us to really take control of what's happening in terms of controlling the pandemic; and we are very thankful to [the] Chinese government for lending aid," he said in the same statement.

"Data sharing, information sharing, and technology sharing are very important for all countries, as well as enabling everybody to have access to medical equipment, medicines, vaccines, and cures," Nograles added.

Meanwhile, Duque highlighted that the completion of the laboratory is "very significant," as health officials are striving to increase the local testing capability.

"The quicker the interventions, the quicker we can isolate [infected patients] and quarantine those who [were] exposed. It's going to really improve our capacity to identify people," he said.

On Sunday, the Chinese embassy also donated new sets of emergency medical supplies to the Philippine government. These include 150,000 test kits, 70,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE), 70,000 N95 masks, and 70,000 protective goggles. It has also delivered 100 ventilators and some 1.3 million surgical masks.

"We hope these urgently needed medical supplies [would] be allotted to the frontliners as soon as possible, so as to provide effective protection for the staff and help the patients get well soon," Huang said in a separate statement.

He added that they are expecting more healthcare supplies to arrive in Manila in the next few days.

In March, the ADB rolled out its plan to improve the coronavirus testing abilities of its member states, and introduced the BGI-developed Huo-Yan Laboratory to the country to enhance the local virus detection capacity.

The Philippines currently has 10,610 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1,842 recoveries and 704 deaths.