A HOUSE leader on Friday said the provincial government of Camarines Sur acquired 20,000 rapid test kits for the coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19) from Abbott Laboratories that are due to arrive this week, enabling the provincial government to launch a targeted testing of healthcare frontliners and people suspected of being infected by this highly contagious pathogen.
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur LRay Villafuerte, a former governor, said the provincial government will begin testing all health frontliners as well as suspect cases as soon as the testing arrive from the United States (US) in a week's time.
“The provincial government under Gov. Migz Villafuerte was able to negotiate with the manufacturer for CamSur to acquire 20,000 of the 50,000 test kits due for delivery to the Philippines, allowing the province to conduct targeted testing of both frontline healthcare workers and suspect cases," said Villafuerte.
Under the Department of Health (DoH)'s new classification of patients, suspect cases comprise persons exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 and those who have been exposed to them but have yet to be tested for the virus. Patients who have already been tested but are still awaiting the test results are considered probable cases while those found positive for the virus are the confirmed cases.
Villafuerte said the provincial capitol has purchased rapid anti-body test kits from the Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, using funds from the P6-billion Bayanihan Grant released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the 81 provincial local government units (LGUs), equivalent to a half-month Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) share of every province.
He did not say which group or groups had bought the 30,000 other test kits made by Abbott Laboratories that are set for delivery to the Philippines.
Abbott has developed its own "serology test" that determines whether a person has had the disease and developed anti-bodies that protect them from future infection, Villafuerte said.
Citing reports, Villafuerte said Abbott's kits deliver positive results in as little as 5 minutes and negative results in about 13 minutes after testing, he said, and have been hailed by US President Trump as well as commercial establishments like CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Abbott has shipped over a half-million of its test kits to all 50 US states in a month's time after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted it "emergency use authorization" last month for its point-of-care diagnostic test system for use in temporary screening sites like drive-thru parking lots, doctors' office laboratories and nursing homes, Villafuerte said.
He said Abbott's anti-bodies test that Camarins Sur has ordered is a breakthrough in the battle against the pandemic because it will enable institutions using the kits to identify which of the tested people have developed the anti-bodies or natural defense against the virus and could thus be discharged from clinical treatment and then be allowed to return to work.
Villafuerte, who is a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee monitoring the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, also said the provincial government has converted its newly built provincial hospital into CamSur's main Covid-19 facility that is equipped with about two dozen ventilators for the use of patients with critical symptoms of this lethal virus.
He said Camarines Sur's Covid-19 facility has a relatively big number of ventilators because the provincial government had used local funds to purchase 15 such machines—the single biggest one-time acquisition of ventilators by a provincial LGU in the entire country.
“It is important for LGUs to conduct Covid-19 testing and subsequent contact tracing because these are ways of finding out which areas should be locked down if there is a need later on to keep certain communities under selective quarantine to stop the further spread of the deadly virus,” he added.
Camarins Sur has so far reported 5 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1 death and three recoveries.
The first death from Covid-19 in Bicol—a 66-year-old Filipino male—was reported last week in Naga City. City Mayor Nelson Legacion said the patient was admitted at the Bicol Medical Center midnight of April 2, and died a few hours later on April 3.
Villafuerte is the lead author in the House of Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 and co-chairman of the social amelioration subcommittee of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) chaired by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and co-chaired by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.