The city government has urged the Department of Health (DOH) to facilitate the immediate setting up of a COVID-19 testing facility in Puerto Princesa, as a long backlog continues to saddle the national central testing laboratories that conduct the tests on specimens from Palawan.

Dr. Mario Baquilod, the regional health director in an aired teleconference with Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron on Monday, said that the DOH will evaluate the capabilities of the local laboratory in the city for possible use.

“Kasalukuyang ini-evaluate ang capacity ng laboratory. ‘Yong pagsasagawa ng testing using the GeneXpert is still under study but we will be assisting you if and when ma-assess na namin ang inyong laboratory,” Baquilod told Bayron.

Palawan has been awaiting the results of confirmatory tests from 10 PUI patients from the Regional Institute for Tropical Medicine for nearly a week already.

“Baka pwedeng ma-allocate sa city ang 1,500 cartridges for GeneXpert para hindi na kami magpadala ng swabs sa Manila kasi wala na kaming flights,” said Bayron.

A chartered flight was initially pegged to cost at least P50,000 just to bring samples from Puerto Princesa City to Manila. The government had sent a total of 53 specimens since the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.

A testing center, in order to be certified by the DOH, has to undergo five levels of certification.

“Lahat ng napapadalang specimen ay pinapadala right away sa mga laboratories. May letter na tayo naipadala sa mga magsasagawa ng assessment. Sa ngayon, yan palang ang information na meron kami,” said Geraldine Perez, health education and promotion officer of the regional office.

The island province recorded a total of 18 suspected COVID-19 cases, 10 of whom were admitted in hospitals throughout the province while 8 were under strict home quarantine.

Meanwhile, the number of possible cases or those who were categorized as persons under monitoring (PUM), dropped to 35 from yesterday’s 47, after completing the required 14-day quarantine period without developing any symptoms.