COVID-19 testing in the Philippines will climb by almost a third to 10,000 per day, thanks to a new laboratory in Pampanga to be opened on Sunday (May 10), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.
In a statement on Friday (May 8), the Manila-based ADB said that testing will begin at the weekend in the Pandemic Sub-National Reference Laboratory at Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando City.
The ADB last March extended to the Philippines—its host-country—a $3-million grant coming from the lender’s Asia-Pacific disaster response fund.
Since it was a grant, specifically given to the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines will not have to repay ADB any amount.
The Pampanga lab will ramp up testing in the country from about 7,000 a day at present.
The ADB said that technicians were expected to finish weeks of training on biosafety as well as specimen collection and testing before the lab’s opening this weekend.
“The laboratory has adequate staffing and is fully compliant with all regulatory requirements,” the ADB said.
It said the DOH would organize collection and transport of samples from health facilities to the lab and transmit test results to the health facilities.
Most equipment and testing kits for the lab arrived in the Philippines last April, including those brought in by a Philippine Air Force plane last April 22.
The lab equipment, the ADB said, was bought from the Beijing Genomics Institute, one of the world’s largest genomics companies with more than 66 client countries.
The institute, according to ADB, also offered tech support in setting up the lab and training staffers.
A Philippine pharmaceutical firm, Unilab, also helped retrofit the hospital “to meet biosafety standards,” ADB said.
The lab would serve health facilities in Central and Northern Luzon and operate beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and “support research on other pathogens, genetic diseases and cancer,” ADB said.
“The facility can be used as a training facility for future laboratory technicians,” it added.
“This state-of-the-art facility is part of the government’s strategy to increase the number of laboratories across the country and significantly boost its COVID-19 testing capacity to flatten the pandemic curve and save lives,” ADB vice president Ahmed M. Saeed said.
The ADB is now also working with the DOH on a $125 million project to supplement the lab operations and support the Philippine government’s response to the pandemic.
This project would provide more testing kits and medical and personal protective equipment for hospitals nationwide, Saeed said.
“Early detection and isolation of new COVID-19 cases is critical to managing potential outbreaks, especially as the government is considering gradually lifting quarantine measures,” the ADB said, citing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
“This makes testing all the more vital, and we are truly pleased with the ADB’s support as we continue to work on strengthening the capacity of the country’s health care system to manage this pandemic,” Duque said, according to ADB.
Edited by TSB
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.