At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, health workers across the Philippines were hailed as frontline workers.
Aside from doctors and nurses, medical technologists were at the forefront in the fight against the pandemic. Testing and identifying COVID-19 patients was crucial in controlling the outbreak, which had seen more than 18,000 Filipinos infected by May 2020, when a tough lockdown was in force for months in large parts of the country.
Medical technologist (MedTech) Marlon Palarion, Jr., as an essential worker, continued to work throughout the community quarantine, working at the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) molecular laboratory in Manila.
“As a healthcare worker, much as we would like to be safe at all times, we needed to step up to stop COVID19 from spreading and causing more harm. The fear is present. But if no one would step up, the pandemic will not end.”
“We were running tests around the clock, accommodating thousands of people for Real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing daily, to trace and track the number of infected individuals. There was a real need to increase the daily testing capacity, and to have the equipment we need to deliver the results accurately and quickly.”
In June 2020, the Australian Government partnered with the Philippine Red Cross to increase the capacity of COVID-19 testing in the country. Australia helped the Philippine Red Cross set up a molecular laboratory in Metro Manila, and provided a specialized ambulance for transporting COVID-19 positive individuals, along with one million face masks and 20,000 pieces of PPEs for frontline workers.
“With the newly equipped molecular laboratory, we were able to increase the Philippines daily testing capacity by 14,000 a day – and that goes a long way in controlling the rise in COVID-19 community transmission,” said Marlon.
Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO said, “This is truly an exercise in bayanihan among Australia, the PRC, Metro Manila local government units, together with the Metrobank Foundation and the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.”
By October 2020, or four months since the establishment of the molecular laboratory in Manila, the Philippine Red Cross reached a milestone, conducting a total of one million RT-PCR tests in the country—the highest a testing institution has achieved.
A million tests is a game-changer in the COVID-19 fight, said Philippine Red Cross Chairman and CEO, Senator Richard Gordon. “There is nothing that we cannot solve in this country provided that we all work together during these times of struggle.”