As face mask supplies dwindle, DOH-12 admits lack of COVID-19 testing kits

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 10 Mar) – The Department of Health in Region 12 urged the public Tuesday not to panic as the region experienced anew shortage of medical face masks in the wake of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

A shortage of face masks has been experienced all over amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) scare. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Arjohn Gangoso, DOH-12 health education and promotion officer, also admitted the regional office does not have any supply of COVID-19 test kits.

During a Senate hearing on Monday, Dr. Rosanna Ditangco, an official from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), testified they only have 2,000 COVID-19 testing kits on hand.

Since January 29, the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) reported five patients under investigation (PUI), but four of them have already been discharged after testing negative for COVID-19.

Gangoso said they expect the RITM to release today, March 10, the results of the other PUI confined in an undisclosed hospital in the region.

“Since we do not have COVID-19 test kits, we just sent the oral and nasal swab samples to the RITM and wait for the results,” he said in a phone interview.

The RESU also reported 88 persons under monitoring (PUM), 73 of whom have already completed their 14-day home quarantine.

As of Tuesday, health workers continued the monitoring of eight PUMs in South Cotabato, six in North Cotabato and one in Sultan Kudarat.

Gangoso appealed to the public to avoid hoarding face masks, saying that some pharmacies have already ran out of stocks based on the monitoring of their field personnel.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Philippines on Monday under a state of public health emergency as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country doubled overnight to 24.

The DOH national office has raised the COVID-19 alert system to Code Red Sublevel 1, a preemptive call to ensure that the national and local governments and public and private health care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.

Amid the face mask shortage in Region 12, Gangoso reminded the public to always perform preventive measures against COVID-19 such as regular washing of hands, eating healthy foods and limiting exposure to crowded places.

In late January with COVID-19 spreading to different countries from Wuhan, China, face masks had also run out of stock in some parts of the region despite its soaring prices.

If showing signs and symptoms of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, seek early consultation with the nearest health center or hospital for COVID-19 detection, the DOH regional office advised.

“Let us support one another to prevent community transmission in the region,” it said in a statement.

With the cooperation of local government units, Gangoso said the Barangay Health Emergency and Response Teams have been activated to help fight the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

There are 17 level 2 and 3 public and private hospitals across the region that are capable of attending to the needs of PUIs, according to the regional health office. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)