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Over 800 samples remain untested in Covid-19 lab

NAGA CITY --- Officials of the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol are in a bind after over 800 samples taken through nasopharyngeal swabbing from individuals suspected of being infected by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) across the region remained untested by the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL) in Legazpi City.

The BRDRL conducts independent testing for Covid-19 through real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). The samples are from different local government units and hospitals in Bicol’s six provinces and seven cities.

It is one of the two DOH-accredited Covid-19 testing laboratories in the region. The other one is at the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City. Between the two, the BRDRL can processed 30 samples a day, while the BMC lab has a testing capacity of 40 samples a day using a GeneXpert machine.

The Covid-19 testing center in Albay started operation in April this year, while the one in BMC began its testing service on May 28, 2020.

Members of the Incident Management Team of Naga City, now known as the Health Emergency Response Task Force along with personnel of other government agencies during a meeting recently. Task force members are seen in photo mulling over strategies that aim to limit the spread of coronavirus in the city.


Sources at BRDRL said the problematic situation being faced by the laboratory, specifically the backlog in the processing of more than 800 samples, happened when the BMC laboratory, which uses GeneXpert machine, has stopped processing samples due to non-availability of US-made test cartridges.

Sources said the supply of such cartridges will be available by October 2020. The machine uses one cartridge per test.

The DOH-Bicol is looking for ways to increase the testing capacity of the laboratory through procurement of additional PCR machine and other necessary equipment and materials.

Meanwhile, according to the Covid-19 Case Bulletin dated Aug. 11 posted on the DOH Bicol Facebook page, the BRDRL conducted a total of 379 tests while only 10 tests were done by BMC.

Total tests done by both laboratories as of the same date equaled to 16,371. Out of this number, some 15,551 were negative results.

Bicol region had a total of 709 cases as of Aug. 11, 2020, 61.4 percent of which was asymptomatic. Of these cases, 26.9 percent were considered mild cases, 3.5 percent severe cases, and no critical case.

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