IN aid of the country’s continuing battle against the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri has set his sights beyond Metro Manila, donating 6,000 COVID-19 antibody diagnostic kits to hospitals in his home region of Mindanao.
Two thousand kits will go to Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon; 2,000 kits to Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental; 1,000 kits to Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao, Surigao del Norte and 1,000 kits to Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). All are set to receive the donations on the 20th and 21st of April.
Zubiri also donated separately a total of 2,200 rapid testing kits to the Department of Health (DOH) regional office in Northern Mindanao and at JR Borja General Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City.
This is the second wave of COVID-19 test kit donations made by Zubiri, after he spearheaded a donation of an equal number of PCR test kits to the Philippine General Hospital through the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health earlier this month.
“Kung sa Metro Manila lang tayo mag-focus, hindi natin matatalo itong COVID,” Zubiri insisted. “The longer we hold other regions back from massive testing, the higher the chances that the virus will continue to spread there, evern with community quarantine. We can’t afford for that to happen. Dapat maagapan natin as soon as possible.”
The test kits to be donated are the rapid antibody test kits recently promoted by President Duterte during his weekly briefings. These kits can be used without testing laboratories.
“I know the gold standard of testing for COVID-19 are the PCR test kits, like those we donated to PGH. But in the absence of accredited laboratories across the country, these rapid test kits will have to do for now,” Zubiri said.
“I am prioritizing these areas of Mindanao, as the DOH has yet to accredit a single testing lab in these areas. This is one of my biggest frustrations, as there is only one accredited laboratory in Mindanao, located in Davao City and nowhere else at the moment. The DOH should cut the bureaucratic red tape and at least focus on regional laboratories and testing centers.
While Luzon, particularly Metro Manila, holds majority of the country’s COVID-19 cases so far, Mindanao has not been spared from the virus. There have been over one hundred and thirty (130) positive cases in Mindanao as of writing, an alarming number given the limited testing capacity in the region so far.
Zubiri, who himself had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has recovered from it, voiced sympathy for health care workers in Mindanao: “So many nurses, doctors, hospital workers back home have reached out to me, asking if there’s a way we can help them. Nasa frontlines sila araw-araw, risking their own wellbeing for us, and yet they can’t get tested because of a shortage of kits. It’s disheartening. I hope some of the test kits that we’re sending out can be allocated for our health workers, so they can continue with their noble duty to our people.”
“We really need nationwide testing. That’s the only way we can properly identify the scope of this virus, and the only way we can begin to eliminate it.”