San Miguel Corporation (SMC) recently opened Better World Edsa, a facility that houses the company’s own state-of-the-art COVID-19 RT-PCR testing laboratory which aims to test some 70,000 employees in its network, in order to unburden the health sector and help ensure a safe return-to-work strategy in the coming months.
Unveiling the marker for the new laboratory was SMC president and COO Ramon S. Ang, National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 chief implementer and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., COVID-19 Task Force deputy chief implementer and testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon and Department of Health undersecretary Leopoldo Vega.
The Better World Edsa testing facility has the capacity to process 4,000 tests per day, expandable to 12,000. This is seen to help the government reach testing capacity to 50,000 per day as well as ease the strain on the country’s testing and processing facilities.
It is equipped with two sets of RT-PCR machines and fully automated nucleic acid extraction systems or NATCH. A set is comprised of two PCR machines and one NATCH. This makes the facility one of the most advanced private testing laboratories in the country.
“Two weeks into the quarantine last March, we included the testing laboratory as part of our business continuity plan. We procured the machines, and had personnel undergo training for its full-scale operations,” related Ang.
“With this facility, we are taking responsibility for testing our own employees and unburdening our health system. It also helps make our operations more resilient to disruptions brought about by the virus. Lesser disruptions on our operations will allow us to better contribute to the immediate recovery of the economy,” he said.
According to Ang, the company aims to bring back 50 percent of its workforce in the coming weeks.
Prior to the shift to general community quarantine, SMC had already commenced testing its employees, prioritizing those in its food manufacturing facilities, to further stabilize the country’s food supply in the coming months.
Ang reiterated that companies should help the government with testing and reduce reliance on the already burdened system.
“It’s our contribution the government’s effort to continuously test and trace COVID-19 transmission and contain it, as well as enable early intervention or treatment to save lives,” he said.
Ang added: “The country and the rest of the world are still feeling the effects of the pandemic on the economy, particularly on businesses and loss of jobs for many of our fellowmen. We have to take more aggressive steps in addressing the virus and make sure that no more lives and livelihood are lost further,”he said.
Sec. Dizon commended SMC for taking the lead in helping rebuild confidence in the economy by putting up its own lab and testing all its employees. “Dapat ngayon confidence building na tayo. Nagpapasalamat tayo sa San Miguel at inunahan na nya ang ibang kumpanya at china-challenge natin lahat ng private sector companies lalo na yung malalaking kumpanya na gawin ang ginagawa ng San Miguel na magkaroon ng sariling laboratory at i-test ang kanilang mga empleyado para tumaas ang kumpyansa at magsimula na tayo muli.”
Sec. Galvez echoed the same sentiment as he and the other government officials present underwent swab tests for COVID-19 to signify the laboratory’s official start of operations.
The SMC lab is capable of continuous testing and processing of results. Among the personnel running the facility are molecular pathologists, medical technicians, data managers, and lab aides.
Ang earlier batted to make testing available at little or no cost, particularly for the most vulnerable communities. In line with this, SMC has donated swab booths as well as PCR testing kits equivalent to 34,000 tests to 17 Metro Manila LGUs.
The company also provided three sets of Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing machines and RNA machines to key government hospitals aside from the five sets of the same machines donated to the Department of Health, which also received testing kits equivalent to 20,000 tests.
It also donated 55 sets of high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) machines for the use of severely-ill Covid-19 patients to the government and 10 quarantine facilities each with a 15-bed capacity beside military camp hospitals nationwide.