DAYS after being cleared of the dreaded 2019 coronavirus disease, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri has donated more than 6,000 antibody diagnostic kits to various hospitals in Mindanao.
In Region 10, the senator's office donated at least 2,000 rapid test kits to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) — the region’s primary Covid-19 referral facility — on Monday.
The city government-run JR Borja General Hospital (JRBGH) also received on the same day some 200 pieces of the test kits through its chief of hospital, Dr. Ramon Nery.
The kits are manufactured by the company Xiamen Boson Biotech Co. Ltd. based in Fujian, China.
On its website, the company claims to be a specialist in the in-vitro diagnostic kits field, developing and manufacturing high-quality point-of-care and other immunoassay kits for the worldwide market.
Zubiri, the Senate majority leader, was not able to attend the turnover due to the government-imposed travel restrictions.
Yoyong Aquino, Zubiri's Special Assistant for Mindanao reported that the said 2,200 pieces of testing kits is worth PHP3 million, which comes from the personal contribution of the senator with some help of his closedfriends who don't want to be identified.
Meanwhile,another 2,000 kits will be distributed to Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center in his hometown Malaybalay City, while Zubiri's staff also donated 1,000 kits in Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City.
Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will also receive another 1,000 kits on April 21.
The kits given to selected Mindanao hospitals is the second wave of donation made by Zubiri after he spearheaded a donation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits to the Philippine General Hospital through the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health early this month.
“If we only focus on Metro Manila, we cannot defeat the Covid,” Zubiri said in a statement.
“The longer we hold other regions back from massive testing, the higher the chances that the virus will continue to spread there, even with community quarantine. We can’t afford for that to happen. We must address this as soon as possible,” he added.
The donated kits are the same rapid antibody test kits promoted by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte which can be used in the absence of testing laboratories.
“I know the gold standard of testing for Covid-19 are the PCR test kits, like those we donated to PGH. But in the absence of accredited laboratories across the country, these rapid test kits will have to do for now,” Zubiri said.
The lawmaker was referring to the RT-PCR or the real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, a nuclear-derived method for detecting the presence of specific genetic material from any pathogen, including a virus.
He also acknowledged the need for nationwide testing, believing that it’s the only way health officials can properly identify the scope of the virus, "and the only way the whole nation can begin to eliminate it."
Dr. Adriano Suba-an, DOH-10 director, said the health department is using RT-PCR as the preferred method of detection of the coronavirus.
However, Suba-an said the rapid test kits would still be used "for some other purposes that is going to help us make a decision for our doctors."
Suba-an has assured that the Boson Biotech test kits are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but these will not be used for mass testing of persons suspected of being infected with the coronavirus.
During the daily press briefing on Monday, Mayor Oscar Moreno expressed gratitude to Zubiri for donating the rapid test kits.
“This is his gesture, after having gone through this trauma of being (Covid-19) positive. I’m sure he did not want others to experience the same,” Moreno said.
On March 16, Zubiri tested positive for Covid-19 after sitting on a Senate hearing where an infected person attended.
The senator tested negative for the coronavirus during a second testing on April 12. (PNA)