The Philippines, with a population of more than 100 million, had only 2,000 novel coronavirus test kits available earlier this week as the number of infections jumped.
Its government once had 4,500 kits in stock, but the number dwindled to 2,000 by Monday as the number of people who wanted to be diagnosed surged, Philippine Department of Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday.
Confirmed cases in the nation had increased to 35 yesterday.
The limited number of testing kits is constraining the country’s ability to test more people for the virus, Philippine Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday, making people showing any symptoms a priority.
The shortage of diagnostic kits in the Philippines underscores resource constraints and rising costs that countries face as the virus spreads globally.
“Will we test 104 million Filipinos? That doesn’t seem to be the correct approach,” Duque said yesterday.
His comments came after Philippine Senator Nancy Binay criticized health officials at a congressional hearing on virus preparations for their seeming lack of readiness to deal with the outbreak.
“I don’t want to panic, but you’re making me panic,” she said.
On the brighter side, a testing kit developed by the University of the Philippines’ National Institutes of Health was accredited by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration on Monday.
There are 2,000 kits expected to arrive from the WHO this week, the health department said.
Elsewhere in the region, Singapore developed its own coronavirus diagnostic kit, according to a Facebook post from Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (王瑞傑), and it is prepared to ship them to other countries.
The city-state said on Monday that it would stop funding treatments for short-term visitors, including tourists, while testing will remain free for everyone.
The announcement came as it reported new imported infections involving people who had traveled from Indonesia, which reported its first virus case earlier this month and officially has just 19 infections compared with 160 in Singapore.
The new measures came into effect on Saturday, when authorities said two symptomatic Indonesian travelers arrived in Singapore.
Both had reported COVID-19 symptoms in Indonesia before leaving and one had sought treatment at a hospital in Jakarta.
Another case involved a Singaporean who had visited her sister in Indonesia who had pneumonia.
The Singaporean Ministry of Health did not say whether its new stance on payment for treatment related to specific cases.
“In view of the rising number of COVID-19 infections globally, and the expected rise in the number of confirmed cases in Singapore, we will need to prioritize the resources at our public hospitals,” it said in a statement.
Of 33 imported cases reported by Singapore to date, 24 involve travel to China, three to Indonesia and the others to Italy, Britain, France and Germany.
Singapore has also determined that some of its local cases had travel history to Indonesia.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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