ADB eyes two more laboratories to scale up efforts against COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — The Asian Development Bank said it is looking at putting up two more COVID-19 laboratories to help the country reach its target daily testing capacity of 30,000 and curb the spread of the dreaded virus.

"We're discussing with the Department of Health, right now, a $125-million project to help respond against COVID," ADB Country Director Kelly Bird said in a press briefing on Monday. "It will include two new labs; and these labs will be state-of-the-art, and biosafety and biosecurity standards [based]."

But the million dollar grant will not be spent entirely on the testing facilities.

It will fund the construction and renovation of isolation wards in some public hospitals, the ADB said.

The grant will also be used to provide medical supplies and other equipment, which will be distributed to select public healthcare facilities.

Bird added: "The project also includes training lab technicians in the use of equipment."

The ADB said it is hoping that the project gets a green light next month.

ADB-funded laboratory in Pampanga at 'full capacity' by the end of May

In the same briefing, the ADB said it is expecting the COVID-19 laboratory in Pampanga to be fully functional by the end of the month.

"We expect it to be at full capacity within the month. It will have a big contribution to the Department of Health to meet the 30,000 target per day," Bird said.

He highlighted that the new facility will continue to test samples even after the pandemic.

Asked why it has chosen to build the laboratory in Pampanga, the ADB said Central Luzon was the region with the second highest number of infections at the time.

It added that the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital (JBLMRH) is a "high-quality" public, teaching hospital.

In the long run, the facilities within the laboratory will also be expanded to serve the citizens of Pampanga, according to the ADB director.

"I also have a personal reason. Over the past, we had a number of projects in San Fernando City. I very much like the city," Bird said.

Meanwhile, the ADB commended the Health Department and the national government for "taking a comprehensive approach" in the country's COVID-19 fight.

"You should be proud of what you've accomplished so far, but it's far from over," Bird stressed. "It's got its risks. Keep those numbers low; but at the same time, you gotta open up the economy towards the new normal."

He also urged Filipinos to continue supporting the DOH in its efforts to combat COVID-19.

"If Filipinos continue to do what they really do well, which is working together, I think the health system and the economy will come out much stronger," Bird said.

On May 8, the ADB, together with the DOH and the Chinese Embassy, opened the BGI-developed Molecular and Diagnostic Pathology Laboratory at the JBLMRH in San Fernando City in Pampanga to help the Philippines boost its testing capacity.

The country now has 11,086 cases of the coronavirus infection. 1,999 of which have survived the viral illness, while 726 have died.