DOH, RITM deny contact tracing czar’s claim over expired testing kits

DOH, RITM deny contact tracing czar's claim over expired testing kits
A health worker takes a swab of a woman in Brgy. Pasadena in San Juan City on May 6, 2020.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine denied they distributed expired coronavirus test kits to any testing laboratory in the country.

In a statement Monday, the DOH and the RITM said “no expired testing kits were released to any laboratory” based on delivery records and documents.

This came after Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong complained of receiving test kits from the RITM, most of which have expired. The country’s contact tracing czar said he raised his complaint to the DOH and the government’s inter-agency task force on COVID-19 response.

The DOH noted that testing kits have “significantly shorter shelf life of six months” unlike medicines, which can be stored and be suitable for use for three to five years. This means test kits have to be used immediately considering that shipment and other laboratory processes also take up a part of their already short shelf life.

“Additionally, machine compatibility, technical issues, low testing referral count, and availability of supplies also contribute to low consumption of the COVID-19 test kits which in turn increase likelihood of expiry before use,” the agency said.

To address stock management in testing laboratories, the COVID-19 Laboratory Network Project Management Unit was formed. The PMU is developing a “more efficient and focused logistics process,” the DOH said.

It added that a new Information Management System was also launched.

At least 6.2 million people in the Philippines have been so far tested for COVID-19.

With nearly 470,650 COVID-19 cases and over 9,124 deaths, the Philippines has Southeast Asia’s second worst COVID-19 outbreak. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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