Malacañang on Monday welcomed reports that a saliva-based test for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has garnered a 99 percent detection rate in the United States.
Philippine Red Cross (PCR) biomolecular laboratories head and former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the cheaper Covid-19 test has a 99 percent detection rate at the University of Illinois in the US.
She said administering the saliva-based tests does not require swab kits, a specimen collector and skilled professional, nor expensive collection vials. Processing time for saliva samples is only three hours compared to the swab tests that can take six to seven hours.
The saliva test recommendation reached the Department of Health (DOH) for approval as early as November. However, the government has yet to decide on the use of these tests.
In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque expressed hope that the cheaper Covid-19 test would also be used in the Philippines once it receives approval from health authorities.
“Hallelujah! Sana maipasok na sa Pilipinas ‘yan (I hope that can reach the Philippines). And of course, we’re asking the FDA for speedy evaluation para makakuha na tayo ng mas mura na test laban sa Covid-19 (so we can get a cheaper Covid-19 test),” he said.
He also expressed hope that the cheaper test would prevent the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) from falling into debt as it did with Covid-19 tests at the PRC.
“Siguro ito yung solusyon dun sa paulit-ulit na pagkakautang ng PhilHealth sa (Perhaps this is a solution on the PhilHealth’s debt with the) Philippine Red Cross,” he said.
No info on vaccine given to POGO workers
Meanwhile, Roque said he has no information about reports that some 100,000 Chinese workers in the Philippines received Covid-19 vaccines from their homeland.
Civic leader and popular Chinese-Filipino figure Teresita Ang-See earlier claimed that around 100,000 Chinese workers engaged in the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) have received doses of a vaccine from China.
Roque said that although he could not confirm if reports are true, it was a welcome development.
“Wala po akong impormasyon. Kung totoo man, e di mabuti (I have no information. But if it’s true, that’s good), 100,000 less possible carriers of the coronavirus,” he said.
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana said he would try to get information regarding the matter.
“We’ll see what we can find out, but as I said, we’re not on the loop on this matter. Regarding the 100,000, unless they came back to China and had the vaccination here in China, as to whether it was brought out of China, I cannot confirm nor deny. I certainly don’t know,” he said.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte bared that some members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly his close-in security detail, received doses of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine.
China earlier approved the Sinopharm vaccine for general use on the population. To date, almost 1 million Chinese have been given the Sinopharm vaccine.
Currently, Chinese government is planning to ramp up production and embark on a mass inoculation campaign.
“Ang (The) initial plan is between now and Chinese New Year, which is February 12. Actually, ang target nila (their target is) by February 5, at least 50 million Chinese ang mabakunahan (they would have inoculated) at least 50 million Chinese citizens),” Sta. Romana said. (PNA)