THE PHILIPPINE Red Cross (PRC) might miss a chance to buy coronavirus testing kits from China on Tuesday after the state health insurer failed to pay its debt, according to Senator Richard J. Gordon.

The lawmaker, who heads the local Red Cross, said he had received reports that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) had prepared a check as payment for the P1.1 billion debt that remained unsigned.

The government had committed to pay by Oct. 26.

“I talked with somebody who said the check was ready yesterday, it just wasn’t signed,” he told an online news briefing in mixed English and Filipino. “I don’t know what that means.”

The Red Cross had obtained a permit for a chartered flight to China for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) test kits, but it could not proceed without the payment, Mr. Gordon said. “I can still fly it this afternoon, but I cannot fly unless I have the money to pay for the test kits,” he said. “It will just be a waste of time.”

The Red Cross was expected to bring home about 450,000 coronavirus test kits that will be distributed to 21 laboratories.

Mr. Gordon said he expects higher testing demand in case of a fresh surge in infections. “That way, we won’t get blindsided, we won’t rush,” he added.

The PRC has conducted the most number of tests as of Oct. 27, with 1.1 million COVID-19 tests since April, out of all hospitals and other health facilities in the country.

The humanitarian organization on Oct. 14 stopped conducting PhilHealth-funded tests for returning migrant Filipino workers, frontliners and government health workers due to the mounting debt.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,524 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 373,144.

The death toll rose by 14 to 7,053, while recoveries increased by 353 to 328,602, it said in a bulletin.

There were 37,489 active cases, 82.8% of which were mild, 11% did not show symptoms, 4% were critical and 2.2% were severe.

Negros Occidental reported the highest number of new cases at 115, followed by Cavite at 76, Benguet at 72, Quezon City at 67 and Laguna at 65, the agency said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas