PCR testing remains integral to our country’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Our healthcare providers rely on testing laboratories to verify COVID-19 cases. Since the initial outbreak, our government has exerted much effort in improving our PCR testing capabilities. With almost half a year into the pandemic, just how far have our healthcare come in addressing our PCR testing requirements?
When the virus started gaining traction, one of the most glaring deficiency our medical providers faced was the lack of testing laboratories. The RITM and a handful of laboratories were insufficient to handle the sudden influx of samples delivered to the for verification. Since then, authorizing bodies have accredited more laboratories, boosting the 19 initial testing centers to 83.
This significant increase impacted our national testing capacity. By June, we have already addressed the backlog of samples caused by the previous lack of testing laboratories. At the moment, RT-PCR laboratories have an average turnaround time of 50 hours while the GeneXpert laboratories can provide results within just 1 to 2 days through their semi-automated RT-PCR technology.
Backlogs have recently begun to appear once more with 12,208 samples still left to be tested. Last July 3, the backlogs rose to an all-time high with more than 16,000 samples. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stated that newly accredited laboratories may be overwhelmed with the sudden amount of testing. To remedy this, these laboratories are limiting the new cases they take on to address the backlog samples first.
RITM, our country’s principal testing laboratory, is also facing their own issues. They have been experiencing equipment breakdowns, likely due to working round the clock. A significant portion of their staff are also under quarantine due to viral exposure. These factors have resulted for the laboratory to have 5,700 backlogs.