If unwell assume you have COVID-19, don’t wait for tests, Duque tells public

Francisco Duque

WITH mass testing remaining to be a difficult task at present, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III today urged Filipinos with symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to assume that they are already infected and should treat their condition with much precaution

Duque pointed out that while early detection of the disease is good, testing is not the cure for it.

“Unang-una, hindi naman gamot itong testing na ito. Ika nga kung alam mo na ‘yung sintomas, i-manage mo na as COVID-19. Dapat kung alam mo na na lahat ng indikasyon ay nandoon nagtuturo o nagsa-suggest na ito ay malamang COVID, bakit ka pa maghihintay ng test? Gawin mo na. You manage it already. Kalokohan ‘yung sasabihin natin ‘Wala pa ‘yung test eh.’ Anong wala pa ‘yung test? Gawin mo na. You assume, that’s the way to do it,” he said.

Among the symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, cold, shortness of breath, and diarrhea.

On Wednesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippines is not yet ready to conduct mass testing, citing the insufficient number of testing kits.

“Unang-una po, ang ating mga testing kits bagaman mayroon na tayong 100,000 at may parating pa po, hindi po ‘yan enough para mag-mass testing tayo. Ito po gagawin natin maybe kapag sufficient na ang resources natin para mas efficient po ang ginagawa natin. For now mass testing wala pa po iyan sa ating konsiderasyon,” she said.

The Philippines has 636 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 38 deaths as of Wednesday.

Duque said the call for mass testing should be rationalized and the vulnerable sector — the elderly and those with underlying diseases — should be prioritized.

“Ang mass testing ba kailangan bawat Pilipino i-test mo? 104 million iyon, palagay ko wala namang bansang makakagawa ng ganoong mass testing to the extent of the population of the country,” he said, noting that only 100,000 test kits are currently on hand.

Duque said that the Philippine health authorities are using PCR-based test kits as these yield more accurate results than the “do-it-yourself” type.

“'Yun po ang tinutukoy mo yung virus mismo, hindi lang yung antibodies eh. Kasi 'yung isang lateral flow antibodies testing, mabilis, mura pero maraming false negative. Eh mahirap 'yung false negative kasi akala mo negative ka pero may virus ka,” the health chief explained.

“Bakit false negative? Kasi wala pang antibodies eh. Eh hindi naman automatic pag may virus ka, 'yung minuto at segundo na iyon ang katawan ay lilikha ng antibodies,” he added.

Duque also pointed out that the accredited test kits in the Philippines are being used with laboratory machines.

“Makina kasi 'yang PCR. Nasa mga laboratory ito. 'Yan ang nagbabasa ng resulta [kung] positive ito o negative... Kung positive kailangan padaanin sa confirmatory testing. Medyo masalimuot itong pagsuri ng swab. Hindi po ito parang pregnancy test,” he said.

The DOH secretary said there are currently seven public hospitals nationwide capable of processing the PCR-based testing kits. About four hospitals in Metro Manila are also seen to open their own laboratories for such.