THE Chinese government has donated 2,000 “high-tech fast test kits” to the Philippines to help it fight a novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 12 people and sickened 128 more.
The test kits, jointly donated by the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines and China Mammoth Foundation, arrived in Manila yesterday, the embassy said in a statement. “China is ready to provide more test kits in the coming days,” it said.
The test kits, developed by the China BGI Group, can show the results in three hours. It has been exported to more than 50 countries including Japan, Thailand, Brunei, Egypt, Peru and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Chinese Embassy.
Senators on March 9 criticized health officials for failing to buy enough test kits for suspected carriers of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The agency only had 2,000 kits and expected to receive 4,500 more from the World Health Organization, Alethea de Guzman, a DoH medical specialist, told a Senate hearing.
An imported COVID-19 test kit costs about P6,000.
The department was reviewing a decision it had made earlier to limit the use of test kits to travelers from countries with cases of COVID-19, Ms. Guzman said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has since approved coronavirus disease 2019 test kits developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help speed up the diagnosis.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III earlier said testing 100 million people was impractical.
The virus that the World Health Organization has called a pandemic has killed more than 6,500 people and sickened about 170,000 more worldwide, mostly in China.
“China has been sharing our hard-won anti-epidemic experiences, carrying out close medical experts-level cooperation with the Philippine side,” the embassy said, adding that President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping were in constant communication.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday informed Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. by phone about the donations and a plan to send medical experts to Manila.
Mr. Locsin confirmed his conversation with Mr. Wang, but said China’s planned aid to the Philippines was “much bigger” than the 2,000 test kits.
“This is not the Wang Yi undertaking, he and I talked about on the secure line. It will be much bigger,” he said in a social media post on Monday. — Charmaine A. Tadalan