500,000 rapid test kits arrive in Philippines

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MANILA  (The Philippine Star ) — The first batch of more than 500,000 antibody rapid test kits for private sector-led Project Antibody Rapid Test Kit or ARK has arrived in the country.

In a statement Sunday, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo or Business founder Joey Concepcion said the first batch of rapid test kits will be used by 205 partner companies for screening their employees to safely reopen their businesses.

Under Project ARK, which seeks to ramp up testing in the country, participating private sector companies will screen their employees for Covid-19.

Companies also have an option to purchase test kits to be used for residents in nearby barangays or villages.

Firms are donating reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR machines to hospitals under the project.

“On May 19 and 20, we are flying in two planeloads of PCR —  swab testing equipment (including automated extractor machines), donated by our private sector donors. This is also our initiative in support for expanding the RT - PCR tests in government and selected private hospitals,” Concepcion said.

“Through the collaborative effort of the (Department of Health), Red Cross Philippines and Go Negosyo partners, we should be looking at 30,000 tests a day in 45 days, and hopefully within the next three months, we would attain 50,000 tests,” he added.

“According to Rep. Janette Garin, who is our private sector chief implementor for Project ARK- PCR initiative, the goal is to make swab testing price more affordable. That is why we partnered with some government hospitals that can offer it in less than 1,700 pesos [or about $33] per PCR test. In this way, we will be able to make it more accessible to everyone,” he said.

Garin said “the Go Negosyo donations are the best bang for the buck in the Philippines today. Project ARK - PCR initiative helps put up automated laboratories and/or converting manual laboratories to automated and modern and complete laboratory setups.”

The project brings the price of RT-PCR tests to a more reasonable price, she said.

Accessible, affordable and timely release of test results within 24 hours is expected from the Project ARK-PCR laboratories.

To bring back economic activity, Concepcion said mass testing should be conducted through both antibody rapid tests and RT-PCR tests.

“This is key to avoiding another lockdown. That is what we, along with Deputy Chief Implementer of Covid-19 Response Vince Dizon, are focused on,” he said.

Concepcion said massive rapid testing of employees is not a waste of resources, but a way to protect businesses and lives.

“The private sector is spending [up to $11.7 million] on this, but continuous lockdown is going to cost us much more. As for accuracy, we are encouraging companies to test every 14 days. The more we test, the more accurate our data will be,” he said.

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