Testing for 20K OFWS begins on May 6

Press Release/05 May 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) today, together with National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. and Deputy Chief Implementer Secretary Vivencio Dizon, inspected the Palacio de Maynila Tent swabbing center, one of the four mega swabbing centers expected to test an estimated 20,000 returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) starting tomorrow.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III checked on whether the facility observes DOH-issued protocols on testing and proper distancing by going through a short simulation of the crowd and patient management in the facility.

“Testing is the cornerstone of our national COVID response,” the Health Chief said, emphasizing the importance of conducting more tests in order to ensure early detection of cases and timely isolation of confirmed COVID-19 patients to mitigate risk of community transmission.

According to Secretary Galvez, the swabbing center in Palacio de Maynila Tent, could ramp up the country’s daily testing capacity with an estimated 5,000 additional tests.

“If we can achieve that, theoretically matatapos nating i-test [ang 20,000 OFWs] in five days,” explained Deputy Chief Implementer Dizon, emphasizing that after testing the returning OFWs, the facility will cater and assist local government units in community-based testings.

Palacio de Maynila Tent has 65 testing booths and manned by trained swabbers, 20 encoders, and 10 runners who will ensure that the specimens are well-preserved and the records accurate and updated. It will operate 24/7 with three shifts under the management of the Philippine Coast Guard led by Admiral Joel Garcia and the Bureau of Fire Protection.

According to Secretary Dizon, the specimen extracted by this facility will be processed by the Philippine Red Cross in its Mandaluyong City laboratory within 24-72 hours, depending on the tests’ volume.

“We would like to take this opportunity to convey our profuse gratitude to business leaders; the Ayala Group, Manila Bulletin and Razon Group of Companies -- these are conglomerates who manifested their profound sense of corporate responsibility,” said Secretary Duque thanking the private sector partners of the DOH, Department of Transportation, and Bases and Conversion Development Authority in establishing the swabbing center. He also called upon other business groups to join the government’s undertaking in testing as many individuals as possible.

The three other swabbing centers are expected to start their operations this week. The Enderun Tent which was designated as the mega swabbing center in the eastern sector will open on Thursday. The Mall of Asia Arena Center in the southern sector will open on Friday, and the Philippine Arena in the northern sector will start its operations on Sunday.