Photo courtesy of Provincial Information Office

The provincial government has received some 800 rapid test kits for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from a Chinese “friend” of Palawan governor Jose Alvarez, to aid the provincial government’s efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus in the province.

Dr. Mary Ann Navarro the provincial health officer (PHO), said Saturday that the rapid test kits can be used in a limited manner, particularly in the management of PUI patients as it can only detect certain antibodies after a patient has developed mild or moderate symptoms.

“Hindi nito kailangan ng machine kasi blood ang tinitingnan. ‘Yon lang hindi confirmatory. Masasabi lang kung na-expose sa COVID-19 ‘yong pasyente at kung nag develop na siya ng antibodies. Pinaka-maganda pa rin yung reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR),” she said.

Navarro also said that confirmatory tests still need to be done on patients citing that the use of such rapid test is only to cut the quarantine period of the PUI while awaiting RT-PCR results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which usually takes up more than a week because of logistical challenges.

“Maaaring gamitin ang mga rapid test kits na pang-monitor habang nagpapagaling ang isang patient na may sintomas upang hindi na magtagal sa quarantine period bilang isang PUI partikular ang mayroon na lamang mild at moderate symptoms at nagpapagaling na,” she added.

The rapid test kits, which may be used only for the persons under investigation (PUI) who were already showing symptoms, can generate results within 5 to 10 minutes.

To take the test, a PUI has to clean their finger with an alcohol swab and use the provided lancet provided to prick the finger. The cartridge will then read the results from the blood sample obtained.

Undersecretary for health Maria Rosario Vergeire, in an earlier press statement, said that some of the kits developed by certain Chinese companies were only 40 percent accurate in diagnosing COVID-19 citing that some of them would have to be discarded as a result.

The Chinese embassy denounced the accusations, saying the kits complied with World Health Organization’s (WHO) standards and that they had played “a significant role” in enabling the Philippine government to deal with the global epidemic.

“The rapid test kits will yield a faster result compared to PCR based kits, but it is important that a trained health professional will evaluate and interpret the results. We have to be very cautious in using these rapid test kits because they measure antibodies and not the viral load itself. The body takes time to develop antibodies and this might give a negative result for patients who have been infected but have not yet developed antibodies. A positive result due to cross reaction with other bacteria or viruses is also possible, which is why a confirmatory PCR based test is still required,” said Eric Domingo, director general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Meanwhile, Winston Arzaga, chief of provincial information office (PIO), confirmed Saturday that the Palawan province has also procured P17 million-worth of medical supplies including 25,000 face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectants, and alcohols.

“Nakabili na tayo at na-distribute na din. Naunang nabigyan ang northern municipalities at tuloy-tuloy na hanggang sa south,” he said.

The medical supplies were carried by Gov. Alvarez’s chopper to fast-track the procurement, which was recently seen as a challenge in the island province due to the logistical backlog caused by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“Para mas mapabilis, ‘yong eroplano na ni Gob. Alvarez ang ginagamit, pero syempre limited lang ang kayang mabitbit. Nauna nang nabigyan ang ibang hospitals na nagsabing wala na talagang supplies at sunod-sunod na din ang distribution,” Arzaga added.

The provincial government has alloted some P250 million from its calamity budget to fund the fight against COVID-19.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.