DFA to donors: Ensure test kits, equipment are FDA-approved

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign governments and other donors planning to give crucial supplies for the  Philippines' fight against the coronavirus disease must first ensure that they comply with the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH).

Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay issued the reminder, saying the donated test kits and equipment must be approved by the Food and Drug Adminisration (FDA), to ensure their quick release by the Bureau of Customs.  

"'Yung mga equipment at test kits, 'yun lang po ang kailangaan dumaan sa pagsusuri ng FDA. 'Pag ito naman ay meron nang approval ng FDA, puwede na po tong lumusot na mabilis (Equipment and test kits need to be reviewed by the FDA. When these have the FDA’s approval, they will be released quickly)," Dulay said in a Laging Handa press briefing on Tuesday, March 24.  

Why this matters. The Philippines is currently seeking more test kits as it moves to ramp up its screening for coronavirus-positive patients.  

Despite this, the kinds of tests used by authorized laboratories and medical facilities remain limited, as the DOH has prioritized the use Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) based kits. 

Such tests, as opposed to rapid test kits, focus on tracing the genetic makeup of the coronavirus in accredited and equipped labs like the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The FDA has so far approved 8 commercially available test kits for use. 

Other items: Dulay gave assurances that the BOC would immediately clear other donated items such as masks, googles, and hazmat suits –  personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Dulay said this was agreed upon with the BOC and Department of Finance, considering the urgent need to supply more hospitals and health facilities with PPEs.

As the Philippines continues to see an increase in coronavirus cases, medical workers have raised the alarm on the dangerously low supply of PPEs needed to protect frontliners caring for the sick. While waiting for the supply to reach them, many have improvised using everyday materials. (IN PHOTOS: Volunteers, medical frontliners improvise PPE amid shortage)

SingaporeSouth Korea, and China are among the countries that have donated test kits, PPEs, and other equipment to the Philippines.

The Philippines recorded at least 501 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, including 19 recoveries, and 33 deaths. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.