PCG manual Covid-19 test for OFWs delays results

MANILA – Returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW) would have to wait a little longer before they can receive the result of their reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) returned to a slower manual “pre-processing” of swab samples.

In a message on Friday, PCG spokesperson, Commodore Armando Balilo said the return to manual pre-processing was due to the Philippine Red Cross’ (PRC) decision to stop coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) tests that are chargeable to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

This, he said, forced the PCG to use government laboratories for the measure.

According to a PCG statement, each government testing laboratory provides a maximum of 100 Covid-19 test slots to the PCG per day, resulting in PCG personnel visiting numerous government laboratories to process thousands of collected swab samples.

“With this, RT-PCR test results may be received in 1 to 2 days via email, instead of less than 24 hours with the automated pre-processing system,” the PCG said.

The new system took effect on Thursday and will affect returning OFWs who were tested at One-Stop Shops in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“As of 1 p.m. today, a total of 116 PCG frontline personnel have manually encoded 30 percent of 2,833 returning OFWs swab samples collected yesterday to be processed before transport to designated government laboratories that will conduct RT-PCR analyses,” the PCG said.

To hasten the process and ease the experience of affected returning OFWs, it said the PCG personnel at quarantine hotels are working closely with PCG personnel at NAIA, noting that PCG Commandant, Admiral George Ursabia Jr., is looking to deploy more personnel to address the issue.

“The PCG appeals for patience and understanding, especially to ROFs who have to be isolated longer in their designated quarantine facilities. Rest assured that the service will continue to work proactively with lead government agencies to restore the automated pre-processing of swab samples and the release of RT-PCR test results in less than 24 hours,” the PCG said.

While the PCG handles the provision of negative RT-PCR test results, it added that the Bureau of Quarantine will process returning OFWs who test positive for Covid-19.

On Thursday, the PRC stopped Covid-19 testing chargeable to PhilHealth due to its unsettled balance of over PHP990 million.

Of the unsettled amount, the PRC said more than 90 percent is overdue for payment. (PNA)