MANILA CITY—During the recently concluded press briefing at the Department of Health (DOH), Assistant Secretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated that only identified Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) will be tested for COVID-19 confirmation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM).
“There are materials circulating on social media advertising the services of RITM. It states that RITM is open 24/7 for free testing, and that anyone experiencing cough, colds, or fever may get themselves tested there. This is not true. We have to strictly observe protocols on how this must be done,” Dr. Vergeire said.
To date, six individuals have been confirmed as positive carriers of the coronavirus disease. As repeatedly mentioned by Health Officials in various media appearances, only those who have travel histories, exposure to COVID-19 patients, and have closely interacted with positive individuals may be tested using RITM facilities.
World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe supports this directive, highlighting the huge demand for testing reagents and chemicals as the primary hindrance to COVID-19 testing en masse. “Contact tracing is practiced to precisely identify PUIs requiring confirmatory testing. It is not possible for any country to test every individual because COVID-19 testing materials have become a global need. We have to be realistic about capacities,” Dr. Abeyasinghe concluded.
While the hospital facilities of RITM may accept patients and facilitate medical consultation, only classified PUIs are admitted and processed for laboratory confirmation of COVID-19. As the National Reference Laboratory for emerging and re-emerging infectious and tropical diseases, RITM conducts disease confirmation testing of samples collected from PUIs admitted in hospitals nationwide.