Sen. Zubiri donates 6K rapid test kits to Mindanao hospitals

Apr. 21, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – After he tested negative from the coronavirus-2019 (Covid-19) infection, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri has donated more than 6,000 pieces of antibody diagnostic kits that will help medical experts in the detection of the virus to hospitals in Mindanao.

In the region’s Covid-19 referral facility, 2,000 rapid test kits were turned over by the senator’s staff to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) through the Department of Health-10 (DOH-10).

The city government-run JR Borja General Hospital (JRBGH), through its chief of hospital Dr. Ramon Nery, also received 200 test kits.

Zubiri’s office handed over the kits to NMMC and JRBGH on Monday (April 20).

The kits are manufactured by the company Xiamen Boson Biotech Co. Ltd. based in Fujian, China.

On its website, the company claims to be a specialist in the in-vitro diagnostic kits field, developing and manufacturing high-quality point-of-care and other immunoassay kits for worldwide market.

Zubiri, the senate majority leader, was not able to attend the turnover due to the government-imposed travel restrictions.

Other health care facilities elsewhere in Mindanao were also given the kits including the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, with 2,000 pieces; Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, 1,000 pieces; and Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao, with 1,000 pieces.

Those medical facilities outside Northern Mindanao are expected to receive the test kits on Tuesday (April 21).

The kits given to selected Mindanao hospitals is the second wave of donation made by Zubiri, after he spearheaded a donation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits to the Phil. General Hospital through the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health early this month.

“If we only focus on Metro Manila, we cannot defeat the Covid,” Zubiri said in a statement.

“The longer we hold other regions back from massive testing, the higher the chances that the virus will continue to spread there, even with community quarantine. We can’t afford for that to happen. We must address this as soon as possible,” he added.

Those donated are the rapid antibody test kits recently promoted by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during his weekly briefing, which can be used in the absence of 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.

The lawmaker was referring to the RT-PCR or the real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, a nuclear-derived method for detecting the presence of specific genetic material from any pathogen, including a virus.

“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,” he added.

He said: “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.”

For his part, Dr. Adriano Suba-an, DOH-10 regional director, said that although the health department is using RT-PCR as the preferred method of detection of the coronavirus, “we are actually going to make use of this for some other purposes that are going to help us make a decision for our doctors.”

Suba-an has assured, however, that the Boson Biotech test kits are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but these will not be used for mass testing of persons suspected of being infected with the coronavirus.

He said doctors will have to decide who must avail of the test kits.

During the daily press briefing held Monday, City Mayor Oscar Moreno said he is thankful to Zubiri for donating the rapid test kits.

“This is his gesture, after having gone through this trauma of being [Covid-19] positive. I’m sure he did not want others to experience the same,” Moreno said.

On March 16, Zubiri tested positive for Covid-19 after a sitting in a senate hearing where an infected person attended.

The senator tested negative for the coronavirus during second testing on April 12.(

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