MANILA (Manila Times) – Singapore donated 40,000 testing kits to the Philippines on Sunday when the Chinese embassy in Manila insisted that its donation of 100,000 kits were effective against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Several lawmakers and some celebrities have been criticized in news reports and on social media after several people complained that they could not get COVID-19 tests at their local health facilities.
So far, mostly those with severe cases were being tested for COVID-19 as the Philippines has a limited supply of test kits.
Ambassador to the Philippines Gerard Ho turned over Singapore’s donations, which included six ventilators, to Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje during a simple ceremony.
The testing kits and two ventilators were donated by the Temasek Foundation, based in Singapore. The four other ventilators were donated by the Filinvest City Foundation.
Those donations were cleared for release by the Bureau of Customs on the same day for immediate turnover to the Department of Health (DoH) for distribution to frontline hospitals.
Ho earlier turned over to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. 3,000 Covid-19 test kits and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine.
Also on Sunday, the Chinese embassy in Manila issued a statement saying the DoH has clarified that the 102,000 Covid-19 testing kits given by China to the Philippines have “no accuracy problems.”
The embassy sought the DoH clarification after reports that questioned the efficacy of the test kits from China.
“According to the clarification of the DoH, the two batches of 2,000 BGI PCR-type test kits and 100,000 Sansure PCR-type test kits donated by the Chinese government have been assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) [and found] to be at par with World Health Organization (WHO)-provided kits,” according to the statement.
The embassy also said that according to the DoH, “Those test kits are of high quality and standards and have no accuracy problems, which are being used in Philippine test laboratories and have helped accelerate the testing process.”
“The test kits mentioned by the DoH official on March 28 during the press briefing were neither tested by RITM which did not receive any kit sample for lab[oratory] validation nor donated by the Chinese government,” the embassy said.
In a text message to Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian, Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said, “Hi! There is nothing wrong with the Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction machine which is used for generating positive or negative result as the case may be!”
“Again your test kits BGI and Sansure Biotechnology are very good and up to the standards as those which were donated by WHO and approved by our RITM. Again our gratitude and appreciation to you and the Chinese government,” Huang quoted Duque in the statement.
The embassy pointed out that since the outbreak of the Covid-19, “China has continually provided assistance as needed to support the Philippines’ battle against the epidemic.”
“At this moment of crisis, we should fight in solidarity to overcome the epidemic at the earliest date. The Chinese embassy firmly rejects any irresponsible remarks and any attempts to undermine our cooperation in this regard,” it added.
A chartered flight full of urgently needed medical materials donated by China to the Philippines to address the Covid-19 epidemic arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on March 21.
Huang turned over the shipment to Locsin during a brief ceremony held at the NAIA warehouse.
Besides the test kits, China also donated to the Philippines 100,000 surgical masks, 10,000 N95 masks and 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment.