Forty-three personnel of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) got infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), resulting in approximately 5,000 pending COVID-19 tests in RITM laboratories.
“Hindi naman po sila severely ill. ‘Yung iba po mildly sick so naka quarantine lang po sila dito sa aming dormitory facility.’ Yung iba po medyo serious ang symptoms, hindi naman po very serious, sa hospital sila naka admit,” RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos said in an interview aired on CNN Philippines.
(They were not severely ill. Some of them were mildly sick, so they are now quarantined in our dormitory facility. Some have slightly severe symptoms, but not very serious, so they were admitted to a hospital.)
The Director said they are uncertain as to where their employees acquired the disease if it is from the RITM or the community.
Dr. Tony Leachon, the adviser of the government task force against COVID-19, said Saturday that RITM has scaled down its operations “in consideration of the safety of its staff responding to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency beginning April 16, 2020, until April 24, 2020.”
The Facebook post also RITM would only process samples from Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Pasay City starting April 17.
“To prevent delays in testing and releasing results, RITM shall be referring currently received specimens to activated subnational laboratories and COVID-19 partner laboratories,” the advisory said.
“Only RITM laboratories are affected by this temporary slowdown. Our hospital operations shall remain in full swing. Our primary concern right now is employee welfare,” Carlos said in a statement sent to media Monday night.
To assist the RITM’s reduced workforce, the Department of Health (DOH) prescribed a temporary zoning system for the referral of specimens to the 16 accredited testing centers.
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According to Carlos, the RITM could process 1,500 to 2,000 tests per day before the scaling down. However, she could not give a definite number of how many specimens the facility could process, given their current situation.
“Ang priority po muna ay samples ng mga employees. Kapag natapos po namin ito ay saka po kami mag po-process ng ibang samples,” Carlos said.
(Our priority, for now, are the samples of the employees. When we are done with this, then we could process the other samples.)
RITM remains optimistic that they would be able to complete the backlogs by the end of the month despite the reduced workforce.
As of April 20, the Philippines registered 6,459 cases of coronavirus, with 418 deaths and 16 recoveries.