CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The testing machines to trace coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is expected to start Thursday, May 20, said regional health officials Tuesday and is expected to speed up testing in Region 10.

Officials also announced that frontline health workers and persons suspected of having contracted Covid-19 will be first in line for the test using a modified testing machine at state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC).

The NMMC will use a testing machine called GeneXpert and has just received supplies of 1,140 cartridges this Monday, said its epidemiologist, Dr. Bernard Rocha.

The cartridges, called “Xpert Xpress” by the Department of Health (DOH) were provided by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and arrived Sunday amid stormy weather through a Philippine Air Force flight.

The Department of Health said, “the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test is a rapid, real-time, in-vitro RT-PCR test for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.”

The DOH said this cartridge was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last March 21 and approved by the Philippine FDA on March 26.

Rocha said they will review the protocols of the cartridge before subjecting it to testing.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said large-scale testing can only be achieved when the NMMC, DOH-10, and Polymedic Medical Plaza operate their RT-PCR machines at full capacity.

For now, the city aims to pursue targeted testing for certain communities and barangays.

City hall has so far purchased two RT-PCR machines to be used by the DOH-10 and is planning on buying another for NMMC. A private hospital, the Polymedic Medical Plaza, has also acquired its own testing machine.

“Once there are five RT-PCR machines, each can process 90 test results per hour daily,” Rocha said.

But Rocha cautioned against overusing the machine, saying the targeted goal of 400 to 500 tests a day set by DOH-10 “may not be feasible at least until they and the DOH-10 fully operationalize the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction machines” lent to NMMC by the city government.

Dr. Joselito Retuya, epidemiologist at the city health office, said they will also prioritize persons with acute respiratory illness and influenza-like illness for the Covid-19 testing.

“Under the DOH guidance, we will conduct targeted testing. Patients and health care workers will be prioritized. Those with comorbidities and pregnant women will also be prioritized. They will first undergo rapid diagnostic testing to be followed by the RT-PCR testing,” Retuya said. (

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