Waiting for testing kits
In containing the spread of pathogens, health professionals have always stressed the importance of timely diagnosis and sufficient resources to conduct the tests. The same is true for the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. With COVID-19 community transmission now declared in the Philippines, concerns have been raised on whether the country has enough testing kits.
The local test kits for the COVID-19, developed in January this year after the World Health Organization released the complete genome sequence for the pathogen, began undergoing validation testing for accuracy and safety only this week.
To speed up the rollout, the Food and Drug Administration had issued a certificate of exemption for the GenAmplify COVID-19 testing kit developed by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health together with the Department of Science and Technology.
Microbiologist Raul Destura, deputy director of the Philippine Genome Center and CEO of Manila HealthTek Inc., said the company is ready to quickly deploy 1,000 kits, with up to 3,000 more in the coming weeks as soon as the WHO gives the green light.
The WHO validation is critical. While waiting for the validation, the government may turn to imported test kits now being donated to the Philippines. Authorities must ensure that the process of validating the imports for safety and accuracy will not run into red tape during this state of public health emergency.
So far, 500 test kits from South Korea have been delivered to the Department of Health, with another 10,000 more expected within the week, according to DOH officials. South Korea is being seen as a model in containing the virus, although authorities are watching out for any resurgence. China has donated another 2,000 kits, while Alibaba Group’s billionaire co-founder Jack Ma has promised to donate 50,000 more.
All those testing kits are badly needed. The process of clearing them for use should be done with deliberate speed.