The Department of Health (DOH) reported that there are now a total of 100 licensed testing laboratories throughout the Philippines who are eligible to conduct RT-PCR testing for the diagnosis of COVID-19 as of August 6, 2020.

The 100th laboratory facility is Chong Hua Hospital, in Cebu City. The addition of Chong Hua Hospital to the roster of licensed testing laboratories is a milestone in terms of the country’s testing capacity. Initially needing to send swab samples to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia for COVID-19 confirmation in February, the Philippines now boasts the highest testing capacity among countries in the Southeast Asia region, even topping richer neighboring countries such as Japan and Singapore.

As of August 5, the country has conducted a total of 1,667,831 tests on 1,557,105 unique individuals, and has recorded an average daily testing capacity of 27,800 within the last 7 days. The licensing of the country’s 100th laboratory is part of the government’s continued efforts to increase the country’s capability to detect and appropriately manage confirmed COVID-19 patients in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The Philippines’ testing strategy is being enhanced in congruence with the other facets of the government’s national 5-point response strategy to manage the COVID-19 situation in the country, namely prevention, isolation, contact tracing, and treatment.

With the revitalized response strategy that is now primarily being implemented through the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE)–a more localized response initiative aimed at mitigating transmission at the community level–the continuously-improving testing capability will contribute greatly in ensuring the success of the department’s enhanced disease surveillance strategies.

The Philippines’ national testing capacity is also expected to be further boosted with 87 laboratories undergoing the DOH’s licensing process, and in the pipeline to be licensed within the next months.

“We are overjoyed with this significant milestone in our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taos-puso po ang aming pasasalamat sa mga nagbigay daan upang makamit ang tagumpay na ito – ang Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Bureau (HFSRB), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), World Health Organization (WHO) at ang pribadong sektor,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

“Kami rin po ay nagbibigay pugay sa ating mga COVID-19 labs na walang sawang nagbibigay serbisyo at tumutulong sa pag-sugpo ng COVID-19! Walang hanggang pasasalamat po,” the health chief concluded.