January 29, 2023

More molecular laboratories will be built in the Cordillera as part of government’s effort to ramp-up its testing and processing capacity of potential SARS-CoV2 carriers, the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19).

In a meeting with agency heads and local chief executives on May 21 in Baguio City, National Task Force Covid-19 Chief Implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said aside from the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center sub-national molecular diagnostic laboratory, two Baguio-based private laboratories will be accredited by the Department of Health and Regional Institute for Tropical Medicine.

“Critical ang Baguio dahil gateway kayo (of Cordillera provinces),” Galvez said, noting that there have been delays in the submission of reports to the national task force because of the volume of specimen being processed at the BGHMC molecular laboratory.

The BGHMC molecular laboratory is capable of processing 500 to 600 tests daily. 

The NTF is eyeing that by May 31, there should be 78 molecular laboratories nationwide – either operated by government or private but DOH-accredited.

At present, 39 laboratories are operating, but turnaround time still takes about one week.

Galvez said to meet the three strategies of addressing the Covid-19, which are to test, trace, and treat, the ideal turnaround time is between 24 and 48 hours.

For the Cordillera, Galvez said the target is by June 30 with the two laboratories, 2,000 to 3,000 samples daily will be processed.

“Lifting of the community quarantine depends on the readiness of a local government. So they have to be capacitated (by building laboratories, expanded testing, procuring medical equipment, and hiring personnel),” Galvez said.

In Baguio, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city government is planning to build its own molecular laboratory.

He said the automated PCR machine, which Galvez commitment to donate to the city, would complement the BGHMC laboratory.

After the modified general community quarantine, the NTF is considering a zoning concept where lockdowns will only be implemented in a barangay, cluster of barangays or compound. Critical areas will be classified as a red zone and buffer areas as a green zone.

Red zones are areas where movement of people will be strictly limited and green zones are areas where movement of people is more relaxed.

Galvez said assessment reports submitted by the Regional Task Force Covid-19 show that the Cordillera is prepared for the lifting of quarantine.

“The Cordillera is one of the model regions. Your strength is you are disciplined,” Galvez said, as he assured that he will submit to President Rodrigo Duterte the NTF’s recommendation for the region. – Rimaliza A. Opiña