China to send Philippines 100,000 COVID-19 test kits, 100,000 masks: Locsin

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Boxes of coronavirus (COVID-19) testing kits for use by medical field personnel at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the Coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. Mike Segar, Reuters

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – China will send the Philippines 100,000 testing kits for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and 100,000 surgical masks, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.

Locsin said Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian informed him of the donation through text message.

China will also send 10,000 N-95 masks and 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment, Locsin said on Twitter.

Beijing will get a chartered flight this weekend for the delivery, said the top diplomat. 

He said he was "asked to please alert the Customs to let the donation through pronto — and the rest of the bureaucracy not to throw a monkey wrench."
Locsin said he had told Huang that the Chinese test kits needed "their corresponding primers to be usable."

"It's all good," the official tweeted. 

In a statement sent later Wednesday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said it has been coordinating with the Philippines' Department of Health to ensure the immediate transfer of the donation. 

"Ambassador Huang reaffirms that the Philippines continues to stand close in China’s heart as our centuries-long relationship has shown. The Chinese people stands ready to help their Philippine brothers and sisters to go through this difficult time," the embassy said. 

The health department earlier said there was a "global shortage" of COVID-19 test kits and protective masks.

COVID-19 kits by the University of the Philippines might be available in 2 to 3 weeks, said the scientist that led its development, Raul Destura.

The Philippines as of Wednesday confirmed 193 cases of the respiratory disease that emerged from China late last year. The tally includes 14 deaths and 7 patients who recovered from the disease, said the health department.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed Luzon under lockdown until April 12 to arrest the pathogen's spread. Under his order, all households are under home quarantine, the public transport is shuttered, and companies are ordered to adopt a work-from-home scheme that exempts medical personnel, journalists, government officials and essential service providers. 

Duterte has also placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity to give the national and local governments access to critical quick response funds. 

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