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All the answers to COVID-19 testing related questions in PH

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It has only been more than a week since the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The number of confirmed cases is rising, and the rate of mortality is higher than the rate of recoveries.

As a result, Filipinos are panicking. Lately, we’ve been hearing about petitions for mass testing, issues with politicians getting tested even without having exposure with a carrier and showing no symptoms.

But the real questions are — who should be tested? Where can we take the test? Where did the new test kits go? Do we have enough for mass testing?

We compiled the most frequently asked COVID-19 questions and their answers below. 

Q: How do we test for COVID-19 in the Philippines?

A: The health worker will take a sample of a swab from your throat or phlegm and have it tested under different laboratory procedures.

Q: How many COVID-19 testing methods are there?

1.) PCR-based method — can determine if you are positive with the virus even without symptoms.

2.) Immunologic method or rapid test kit -— can identify the presence of antibodies (a blood protein that counters viruses) only after showing symptoms.

Q: Between the two methods, what is more reliable?

A: Definitely, the PCR method since it can identify the virus even without symptoms. We already know that some patients who tested positive were asymptomatic. 

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Q: Who can be tested for COVID-19?

A: Due to the limited test kits, priorities will be given to:

1.) Patients with severe symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.)

2. ) Asymptomatic persons with travel history and/or had an exposure with a confirmed carrier or person under investigation (PUI), including:

a. People who are 65-year-old and above,
b. Those with history of illness and with weak immune system, and
c. Women with complicated pregnancies.

Q: How much does the COVID-19 testing cost? Is it covered by PhilHealth?

A: For a 14-day quarantine at the hospital, a patient’s bill can cost around Php28,000 while professional fees and laboratory tests can cost Php10,000 at a minimum.

In addition, Php1,000 to Php2,000 emergency room fees are charged in private hospitals. Meanwhile, it is often minimal or even FREE at public hospitals. On the other hand, the testing costs can range from Php3,000 to Php5,000.

Thankfully, all of these are covered by PhilHealth or the government so patients and PUIs do not need to worry. 

Q: How long does it take for the release of COVID-19 test results?

A: It can take up to 24 to 48 hours to release the results counting from the time of receipt of the sample. 

 Q: Do all hospitals have the capacity to do PCR testing?

A: No. Aside from Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), there are only four subnational laboratories that can accommodate testing, such as:

1.) San Lazaro Hospital (Metro Manila)
2.) Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (Baguio City)
3.) Southern Philippines Medical Center (Davao City)
4.) Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (Cebu City)

The RITM said on Monday that release of results might extend to three to five days because of the high volume of samples. Nonetheless, the addition of these four hospitals will still expedite the COVID-19 testing. 

Q: Where are the donated COVID-19 test kits going? 

A: The RITM will have to examine the donated test kits first to ensure its validity and safety. Currently, there are additional 100,000 COVID-19 test kits from China that can be used in the Philippines. These will be distributed to the 4 subnational laboratories. Meanwhile, all Level 2 and Level 3 hospitals can facilitate collection of specimens. 

All answers in the COVID-19 questions above are from the Department of Health (DOH). If you have any more questions, or if we missed anything, let us know in the comments section and we’ll update the article.

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