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PRC mulls volume testing for new COVID-19 variant

SENATOR Richard J. Gordon, chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, yesterday said the PRC is now eyeing doing volume testing after the new coronavirus variant which is known to be more contagious emerged in the country.

Gordon said the PRC will do contact tracing on all the passengers who were with the individual who tested positive for the new variant after getting swabbed.

The Department of Health and the Philippine Genome Center confirmed that B.1.17. SARS-CoV-2 variant was detected from a Filipino male who departed for Dubai on Dec. 27, 2020 and arrived in the Philippines last January 7 on Emirates Flight No. EK 332.

The identified individual and his girlfriend did not show symptoms and only the former tested positive. They are now under quarantine, while authorities are on guard for their household contacts who were also put in isolation.

The other eight positive tests from the same flight tested in the Philippine Red Cross Port Area Lab were sent to Philippine Genome Center for further testing.

“Philippine Red Cross has been always first, always ready, and always there. I can’t thank our frontliners enough for being responsive in contact tracing. This is something to behold from our staff and volunteers who brave every day amid the challenges of the pandemic,” the chairman said.

Gordon affirmed an immediate response on this matter, especially to hasten the approval of the saliva test.

“We recently launched a pilot testing of saliva test which involved more than 1,000 health workers and media practitioners. This is a pre-requisite for the approval of DOH and Food & Drugs Authority. If given the green light, PRC will ensure volume testing for individuals coming in and out of the country for us to trace this new COVID-19 variant, and hopefully, we will be able to contain the variant as soon as possible,” he said.

Dr. Paulyn Ubial, former DOH secretary and now head of PRC Molecular Laboratories, said the only way to prevent the spread of the new variant is to increase the testing count. PRC strives to go from 30,000 to 50,000 tests a day to trace and prevent the spread of not only the variant, but the coronavirus as a whole.

PRC has already established 13 molecular laboratories nationwide in response to the pandemic. At present, the humanitarian organization has tested 1,687,718 individuals for COVID-19.