Experts, officials discourage public on home-administered COVID-19 tests
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Experts and public officials in Cebu has encouraged the public not to administer coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) tests at home with kits with no registration approval from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
This developed after reports are making rounds on social media on point-of-care or home-administered test kits.
Dr. Jaime Bernadas, Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH – 7) director, said only Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) had been qualified to do COVID-19 tests.
“All tests for COVID-19 are laboratory-based since these are PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests that can only be done by level 2 or level 3 hospital. It cannot be conducted elsewhere,” Bernadas said.
“The only licensed and accredited to conduct PCR tests is VSMMC. This is why it was identified as a sub-national level laboratory for COVID-19 tests,” he added.
Before Bernadas made this statement, it was revealed during a press conference at Cebu City Hall on Monday, March 23, 2020, that several residents in the city had claimed to be positive of the virus.
However, City Health Officer, Dr. Daisy Villa, said these results could not be officially recognized by health officials since they did not go through the proper laboratory procedures.
Villa said only PCR tests are approved by FDA, the regulating body that would approve and provide the list of valid COVID-19 test kits.
“The official COVID-19 tests should be done with involved PCR tests, and only VSMMC and RITM (Research Institute of Tropical Medicine) are qualified in conducting them,” said Villa.
As a result, City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia encouraged the public not to announce the results of home-administered COVID-19 tests in order to avoid panic.
On March 18, FDA issued a statement, announcing that point-of-care COVID-19 tests kits are not approved by their office, and are not advisable to determine if an individual is infected with the virus.
FDA has approved eight producers of COVID-19 test kits for commercial use, all of which are PCR-based.
Meanwhile, Bernadas told to members of the media that 47 of the 50 samples that formed the pilot COVID-19 tests at VSMMC tested negative of the virus.
Bernadas said they were able to do second testing on one of the four specimens whose results were being further scrutinized by health experts.
“Initially, we reported four samples subject for more confirmatory by RITM. But we conducted a second round of tests on one of them so that brings our total number of specimens for confirmatory to three,” he said.
He added that they were still waiting for response from RITM. /dbs
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