Monday, April 12, 2021

COVID-19 testing center opens in Subic Bay Freeport

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A molecular laboratory capable of doing 2,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests daily has formally opened in the Subic Bay Freeport under a joint project between the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). 

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Senator Richard Gordon, PRC chairman, inspected the laboratory along with SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Vince Dizon, who has been designated deputy chief implementer of the government’s Covid-19 response.

“The Subic lab is already open. We need to have the employees of SBMA tested first, then those of the locators, and then the public in Olongapo, Zambales and Bataan,” Gordon said in a media briefing after the inspection.

“Our aim is to get our people tested so that we can immediately isolate those who are affected and prevent the non-carriers from acquiring the virus. We really have to ramp up testing to ensure victory over Covid,” he added.

PRC’s Subic laboratory, located at the former naval magazine area here, will be working in tandem with the SBMA’s swabbing center, which is strategically located at the Freeport main gate.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the SBMA will assign up to 15 swabbers in the facility to accommodate samples from nearby communities and provinces.

“Zambales is already sending swab samples for testing at the PRC labs in Manila. Now, Subic offers a nearer alternative that would also hasten the process and make the results available earlier,” she said.

Eisma explained that she has already enjoined neighboring local government units in Zambales and Bataan to have their residents tested in conjunction with the PRC-SBMA mass-testing project.

The Red Cross testing facility in the Freeport is equipped with an automated RNA extraction machine that can run 90 samples per hour, and two PCR machines that can each process 1,000 samples a day for a daily turnout of 2,000 tests. 

Application for testing will be screened and processed through the Red Cross hotline 1158, and will cost P3,500 per test. Gordon said the minimal cost will defray the costs of equipment, manpower and supplies, and other overhead needed for the mass testing program.

Gordon said the PRC laboratory in Subic, combined with a similar laboratory that PRC had set up with the BCDA at the Clark Freeport Zone, will help step up the government’s mass testing program.

“We can do a total of 4,000 tests per day in the two new facilities, which will enable us to run an overall total of 16,000 tests a day,” Gordon said.

He said that as more laboratories are being prepared, the Red Cross will be able to increase its overall capacity to 32,000 tests a day by next week.

Aside from the testing laboratory and the swabbing center, the Subic Bay Freeport is also home to two COVID-19 care and isolation facilities that the SBMA has set up at the Subic Gym and the former Leciel Hotel. 

Eisma said these projects had been put up with the help of donations from investor companies in the Subic Freeport and other private groups and individuals from all over the country. 

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