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Marikina City will open its own COVID-19 testing center on Friday, according to Mayor Marcelino "Marcy" Teodoro said.

Teodoro said the city's testing laboratory located inside a new two-story building in Barangay Concepcion Uno will start testing swab samples taken from residents as well as those from nearby towns for COVID-19.

"The DOH has been contacted several times by the city government for it to check the new facility, but its team did not arrive," the mayor said in a statement after visiting the city's newly-constructed testing center.

Teodoro cited "local autonomy" in deciding to push through with local testing, following the rejection of the city's earlier proposals. A team of DOH inspectors arrived to check the testing center shortly after his announcement. Details of the DOH inspectors' findings were not immediately available.

The city government also signed a deal with the Manila HealthTek, Inc., which produces the rapid test kits designed by scientists from the University of the Philippines, to buy 3,000 additional test kits for the city. This is on top of an initial batch of 3,000 kits acquired by city hall.

Rapid test kits can process swab samples in 15 minutes, but current DOH protocols require that samples should still be tested using the more accurate method that makes use of polymerase chain reaction or PCR machines to validate the results.

Teodoro bared plans to start local mass testing in Marikina last March, saying that he intends to share the laboratory with other local government units.

Health officials previously called on local executives to coordinate with the DOH before "acquiring, purchasing and utilizing testing kits within their respective territorial jurisdictions," as more towns and cities wanted to do their own tests as processing was slow when these were centralized at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine. Select public and private hospitals have been accredited to conduct the tests.

DOH has rejected Teodoro's plan to set up the testing laboratory either on the sixth floor of the Marikina City Health Office or inside the state-run Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, saying these locations did not pass space and biosafety standards.

On March 30, Teodoro said the free-standing structure along Bayan-Bayanan Avenue will now be hosting the city's own laboratory. DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire has said that a mixed-use building could increase the risk of infections, especially if there are lapses in protocol inside the laboratory.

There were 59 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Marikina as of Monday afternoon. Six patients have recovered while 14 have died from the disease.

Valenzuela, Pasig, Manila, and Quezon City have also announced mass testing in their areas as infections continue to rise despite the Luzon-wide lockdown.

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