25 May Bicol Covid Update: Cases still at 68, BRDL to become operational

As of May 25, 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bicol Region remain at 68 while confirmed active cases is 15.

Three test results, all negative of Covid-19, were received Monday from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). Two of these are from the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH), while one is referred from Albay Provincial Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (PESU).

Bicol Region has 17 suspected and 3 probable cases of Covid 19. Of the suspected cases, 14 suspects are from Albay, two are from Sorsogon and one is from Camarines Sur. On probable, two are from Camarines Sur, while one (1) is from Albay.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health Center for Health Development in the Bicol Region announced the resumption of operations of the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL) on May 26, 2020, for COVID-19 testing via Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). BRDRL stopped its operations last May 16, 2020 after Typhoon Ambo damaged the exhaust duct at the roof of the laboratory. The exhaust duct had been in use since 2013 by the BRDRL for its testing activities for other infectious diseases prior to the COVID19 pandemic.

The exhaust duct maintains the negative pressure of the biosafety cabinet used for the inactivation and extraction of the samples collected prior to testing at the RT-PCR machine. The negative pressure ensures that laboratory personnel working on live viruses are protected from infection.

A staff from the Philippine Business for Social Progress, a non-government organization that supports infectious disease programs of the DOH CHD-Bicol came last May 20, 2020 to assess the damage and recommend work to be done on the exhaust duct. The exhaust duct is now fixed, hence, collected samples will no longer be re routed to the RITM for COVID19 testing.

Image may contain: outdoor
Image may contain: outdoor
The photos show the exhaust duct of the BRDRL. Photo credit to the DOH CHD-Bicol

Meanwhile, the two new RT-PCR machines donated by LGU Legazpi City and a private donor have also been calibrated and installed by the supplier. However, the use of these machines cannot be maximized pending the arrival of the automated extracting machine bought by LGU Legazpi. As of now, the BRDRL does manual extraction which takes about three (3) to four (4) hours for a batch of 30 to 40 samples on a 2-shift duty. Two teams had been organized to do at least 90 to 100 tests per day from 30-50 tests per day done at the start of BRDRL COVID19 testing.

The GeneXpert laboratory at the Bicol Medical Center is likewise completing documentary requirements until issuance of its License to Operate.

These testing facilities will increase testing capacity of the Bicol Region which is important in isolating COVID 19 suspects to prevent the further spread of the disease.

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