Philippines to double daily tests as virus surges

By Pizaro Gozali Idrus

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AA) – Amid a worrying spike in coronavirus infections, the Philippines is aiming to increase the number of nationwide daily tests to 100,000, a top health official said on Tuesday.

The country will start using rapid antigen tests along with the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“As experts have advised, we should be targeting 100,000 daily tests, and that is the objective,” she said in an interview with local channel ABS-CBN News.

“We are adding the rapid antigen test to our methodology so that we can achieve the target.”

She said almost 50,000 tests were conducted per day across the Philippines over the past week.

The country’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has also urged the use of rapid antigen testing, especially in areas with high number of COVID-19 cases.

“By using a rapid antigen test, along with the RT-PCR tests, we will be able to increase the testing,” Vergeire explained.

The Philippines reported 9,296 more cases on Tuesday, raising the overall count to 741,181, including 13,191 fatalities and 603,310 recoveries.

The government has imposed a strict lockdown in the capital Manila and nearby provinces until April 4.

The Philippines received a batch of 400,000 doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine last week, a shipment that Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said came at an “opportune time” as there was a need for the country to ramp up vaccinations.

*Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita from Anadolu Agency's Indonesian language service

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