Lack of Test Kits May Have Led to "Underreporting," Says DOH

Authorities are waiting on 4,500 more test kits from the WHO.

(SPOT.ph) The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila is now at 24, as of writing; more than twice the number first reported on Sunday, March 8. With the rather abrupt rise of cases, the Department of Health has acknowledged a possible "underreporting," citing the lack of available test kits as a reason. 

"This is largely because of our limited testing supplies. As soon as we get more, we will be able to expand the coverage of who will be tested," said Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III in a report by Inquirer.net.

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This was in response to an earlier statement made by Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson after the DOH raised the alert level status in the country to Code Red on March 7. "Do we have enough testers to cover a decent number of our population, especially in the more vulnerable areas of the country? If no, the DOH may be underreporting, albeit unintentionally," the senator was quoted as saying

There are currently 2,000 testing kits available, according to Dr. Alethea De Guzman, a medical specialist at the DOH, at a senate inquiry on March 9. Around 4,500 more will be delivered by the World Health Organization, noted the doctor. The small number of ready test kits received criticism from several senators, with Senator Nancy Binay commenting, "Maririnig namin sa inyo na you only have 2,000 testing kits out of a 100 million population... You think that is enough?"

Meanwhile, Secretary Duque acknowledged that even if the DOH wanted to test everybody, "the reality on the ground is hindi kaya." A local test kit has been developed by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health for COVID-19, but DOH is still waiting on approval from the World Health Organization before rolling it out.

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Funds should not be a problem for the DOH, said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a report by GMA News Online. Although, a P2-billion supplemental budget for DOH to help deal with the rising cases of COVID-19 is up for discussion in Congress. 

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