South Cotabato COVID-19 testing laboratory to start ‘this week’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 01 June) — The provincial government of South Cotabato is targeting to start this week the full operation of its testing laboratory for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Koronadal City, the provincial capital and seat of government of Soccsksargen or Region 12.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said that a team from the Department of Health (DOH) was scheduled to evaluate on Monday the testing laboratory at the Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center (DAPPMC) and then conduct a proficiency testing.

He said the DOH, in coordination with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), will determine whether the laboratory and the deployed GeneXpert machine are capable of generating accurate test results.

For the proficiency test, which is the fourth of the five-stage accreditation process for COVID-19 testing centers, RITM will provide a set of unknown samples that will be subjected to PCR (polymerase chain reaction) analysis.

The governor said the laboratory should render accurate results for the positive and negative samples that will be tested.

“If the results will be okay, then we can start operating the testing laboratory,” he said in a press conference.

The provincial government had tapped the privately-run DAPPMC, which has an accredited biosafety 2 laboratory, to host a PCR-based COVID-19 testing center.

The Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) transferred to the hospital last week one of the three GeneXpert machines donated by the DOH and the Philippine Business for Social Progress after getting clearance from the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19.

Tamayo said they will temporarily use the donated machine, which was mainly intended for tuberculosis testing but widely used for COVID-19 tests.

He said the provincial government is currently processing the purchase of its own GeneXpert machine.

The governor said they have a total of 1,400 standby test cartridges that were provided by the NTF and the DOH and will request for additional supplies as needed.

He said they will prioritize the testing for the returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and locally-stranded individuals (LSIs).

Hundreds of returning residents arrived in the province since last week through sweeper flights and chartered buses arranged by the national government agencies and the provincial government.

Based on protocol, returning OFWs and LSI will be subjected to PCR tests once they manifest signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during their 14-day mandatory quarantine.

As of 4:36 p.m. Sunday, the province’s confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at four and all patients have already recovered.

No new probable cases were reported but at least 14 suspect COVID-19 patients were admitted at the Soccsksargen General Hospital in Surallah town. (MindaNews)