PH receives COVID-19 test kits, PCR machine from Singapore

Robie de Guzman   •   March 24, 2020   •   495

PH receives COVID-19 test kits, PCR machine from Singapore

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday confirmed it has received the test kits for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine from Singapore.

In a statement, the DFA said the donation was turned over by Singaporean Ambassador to the Philippines Gerard Ho to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

The simple turnover ceremony was joined by Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde and Deputy Chief of Mission Zhou Suli.

The test kits and PCR machine were turned over following the signing of deed of donation at the Philippine Embassy in Singapore on Monday, March 23, the DFA said.

Locsin earlier said that Singapore will be sending some 3,000 test kits and a machine to help local health authorities detect novel coronavirus cases.

The Philippine government has sought to boost its supply of test kits, protective equipment and mask as it fights to curb the increasing cases of COVID-19.

Aside from Singapore, China also donated thousands of test kits, surgical masks and personal protective equipment which already arrived in Manila last Saturday.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded 552 confirmed infections, with 35 deaths and 20 recoveries.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the country under a state of calamity, and declared a month-long Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to curtail the spread of the virus.

295 Filipinos repatriated from Cayman Islands, London arrive in PH – DFA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 295 Filipino workers and their families repatriated from the Cayman Islands and London have arrived in the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement issued Monday, the DFA said this batch of repatriates is composed of 287 Filipinos from Grand Cayman and eight stranded in London.

They landed on Monday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) onboard an “airbridge” flight organized by the local government of the Cayman Islands.

The DFA said the Cayman Islands, which is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, mounted the “airbridge” flight to provide an opportunity for foreign contract workers to return to their home countries amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The department added that it was made possible with the cooperation of the Office of the Governor of the Cayman Islands Government and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), through the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Washington D.C.

“The Manila airbridge flight is but a demonstration of the close Philippine-UK bilateral ties,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said.

Arriola assured that the Philippine Government will continue to work closely with other governments and organizations to mount similar repatriation flights to bring home Filipinos who are in distress as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Upon arrival at NAIA, the  DFA said the repatriates underwent thorough documentation and briefing on current safety protocols prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases as well as RT-PCR COVID-19 testing.

“They will be temporarily housed at Bureau of Quarantine-approved facilities for their mandatory quarantine while they await the result of their RT-PCR test,” it said.

FDA recalls locally-made COVID-19 test kits for ‘minor defects’

Marje Pelayo   •   May 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Some ‘minor defects’ have been seen in the test kits made by the University of the Philippines – National Institute of Health (UP-NIH), according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This prompted the agency to order the recall of all locally-made coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits and stop its use in medical facilities until the problem is resolved.

Specifically, FDA Director Eric Domingo said evidence of contamination had been traced in the reagents that were used in the test kits of UP-NIH; hence, they should not be sold or used for now.

The said locally-made test kits were approved for use by the FDA in April.

Nonetheless, Health Spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire ascertained that the UP-NIH is soon to complete correcting the deficiencies in their test kits. 

“They are in the final stages of correcting the identified deficiencies of the kits by RITM and hopefully by next week they can be re-validated by RITM and we can already use the UP testing kits,” Vergeire said. 

As regards the rapid antibody test kits, Malacañang maintained that local government units (LGU) may still use the said kits despite claims by medical societies that the use of such would be a waste of resources when they only give false results. 

According to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry to  Roque, the LGUs just need to confirm the results of the rapid antibody test kits through real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test within the succeeding 14 days. 

Sa ngayon po, dahil po wala pa tayong sapat na kakayahan at dahil tayo po ay nagbi-build up pa lang ng capacity ng PCR testing, siguro naman walang mawawala kung ira-rapid testing natin ang gusting magpa-rapid testing at yung mga positive, ipa-verify natin sa PCR [For now, since we do not have enough capacity yet and we are still building up our PCR testing capacity, there’s no harm if we still proceed with rapid testing to those who request it, and if it yields a positive result, then have it confirmed through PCR],” Roque explained.

 FDA-approved rapid test kits costs around P3,500 and up depending on the source company and the country of origin. MNP (with reports Aiko Miguel)

Over 230 Filipino sailors from Germany arrive in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Over 200 Filipino sailors repatriated from Germany have arrived in the country, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the DFA said a total of 239 Filipino seafarers have been repatriated on May 11, with the help of the Philippine Consulate in Frankfurt.

The latest batch of repatriates was composed of 188 crew of AIDAblu, and 51 of AIDAmar who signed off while their ships were docked at the German Port of Hamburg.

The DFA said it facilitated the arrival of the sailors from Germany while the shipping company, AIDA Cruises, chartered the Condor flight to bring the repatriates home.

The department said the repatriation was organized amidst the cap imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases on the daily number of arriving overseas Filipino workers in order to manage the existing quarantine protocols and to ensure that OFWs are adequately attended to upon their arrival.

The Philippine government has been repatriating Filipino workers from abroad amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

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