Over P14B spent so far on medical supplies; actual testing still under 9,000 daily

THE government has so far spent over P14 billion in medical supplies to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Based on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s 10th report to Congress submitted Monday, the Department of Health (DoH) used the fund on personal protective equipment, testing kits, and other medical equipment. “The DOH has procured 6,062,019 PPE sets for PhP12.1 billion… Nine different types of PCR test kits have also been procured for PhP1.6 billion with delivery expected by July 2020. Ten units of Automated Nuclelic Acid Extraction Machines have also been procured and awarded through the S-DBM for PhP400 million,” the administration reported. The Department of Science and Technology will also be producing 10,000 reusable masks a week, with a 50,000 target by the end of June. The report also indicated that there are already 43 accredited testing laboratories as of May 27, lower than the government’s target of 66 by end-May. A total of 315,363 tests have been conducted as of May 26, covering 289,732 people.

Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, in a briefing Tuesday, said daily testing capacity has reached 34,000, surpassing the initial goal of 30,000 by end-May.

However, actual daily tests conducted are averaging just between 8,000 to 9,000, according to the DoH. Health Undersecretary Mario Rosario S. Vergeire, in a separate briefing, said the laboratories are now recovering from operational as well as supply issues encountered the past weeks. But hopefully dito sa pagpasok nitong mga dadating na araw, masa-stabilize na natin ang supplies, maraming tumutulong especially mga private (Hopefully in the coming days, we will stabilize our supplies and many are helping, including the private sector), we can be able to ramp up these capacities already,” she said in a virtual briefing. She noted that the laboratories in Bicol, the University of the Philippines-National Institute for Health, and the Lung Center of the Philippines suspended testing operations last week due to supply issues. Ms. Vergeire said there are now 49 licensed laboratories and pop-up labs are being set up. “So hopefully ito lahat ay makakatulong sa pagtaas ng capacity ng labs natin (all these will help increase the testing capacity of our laboratories),” she said. The DoH spokesperson also reported that testing backlogs are at 1,691 as of 6 p.m. Monday. — Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DTI to review rules on purchase limits

AS the country eases lockdown restrictions, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will review the imposition of purchase limits on certain products to prevent hoarding. In a Handa briefing on Tuesday, Trade Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo said, “We have been receiving requests from the manufacturers and the retailers na i-lift ‘yung ating (to lift our) anti-hoarding and anti-panic buying circular.” The DTI released a memorandum on anti-hoarding and panic buying last March 19, a few days after President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared a strict lockdown in the entire Luzon island. The guidelines were issued following reports of people panic buying on basic goods and hygiene products. The DTI said hoarding goods will result in an artificial shortage. Ms. Castelo said supplies of these goods have become stable a few weeks into the lockdown. — Gillian M. Cortez

Gov’t still assessing when dine-in service will be allowed nationwide

THE presidential palace on Monday said it is still assessing when dine-in service in restaurants will be allowed to resume in parts of the country that are still under the general community quarantine category. Under the GCQ, restrictions have been eased with more industries allowed to reopen. The GCQ areas include Metro Manila and other major cities such as Cebu and Davao. “Naghihintay tayo kung kailan pwede magkaroon ng dine-in sa mga areas na ito (We are still waiting when dine-in will be allowed in these areas), Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said. The government already released on Sunday protocols for dine-in services, which is allowed in most parts of the country under the “modified GCQ” policy. — Gillian M. Cortez

MWSS maintains water allocation until end-June

WATER ALLOCATION for Metro Manila households will remain at 48 cubic meters per second until the end of June, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System announced Tuesday. In a statement, MWSS Administrator Emmanuel B. Salamat said they asked the National Water Resources Board to sustain the current allocation to ensure ample supply as sanitary measures are crucial to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019. “The request to maintain allocation is also to sustain the current water system demands that are at an all-time high due to higher than normal temperatures for this time of year,” Mr. Salamat said. Last May 14, allocation was increased to 48 cms from 46 cms to reduce rotational service interruptions being implemented by the capital’s two distributors. “At 48 cms, almost 100% of customers in the East Zone enjoy 24/7 water supply. In the West Zone, 80-90% of customers have 24-hour supply, and daily rotational water service interruptions are isolated only during off-peak hours in ‘high demand’ and elevated areas,” the MWSS said. MWSS said the water level in Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s main source, is expected to remain sustainable based on projections by weather bureau PAGASA. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave