CEBU, Philippines — The mass testing in Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City begins today, May 6, as part of “Project Balik Buhay” initiated by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH).
The strategic testing will involve 10 percent of the total number of households per barangay in the three cities or a total of 46,896 individuals.
Yesterday, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella issued an executive order institutionalizing the “Project Balik Buhay” and providing for the conduct of the strategic community testing.
Cebu City will use Rapid Anti-body based Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) in a credible sample size of households in its 80 barangays.
Per Executive Order 75, the use of RDTs shall be strictly for screening, monitoring, and surveillance. It is not meant to supplant Real Time Reverse Transcription- Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) in obtaining diagnosis for COVID-19 infection.
At least 20,000 households from 80 barangays will be visited and tested by 14 teams composed of personnel from the City Health Department (CHD) and DOH May 6 until May 15.
The 14 extraction teams will conduct sampling pursuant to a schedule set and decided by and between DOH-7 and CHD.
Barangays Luz and Labangon are excluded from the testing as they have already undergone the mass testing.
The guidelines on the extraction and processing of rapid testing samples provide that the extraction teams should coordinate with the officials, health workers, and health emergency response team of the barangay where the test will be conducted.
BHWs will bring to the extraction sites residents who have been randomly and strategically identified. Only one representative from a chosen household shall undergo the rapid testing, which involves extraction of a blood sample.
Prior to extraction, the individual must sign a consent form that he voluntarily submits himself to extraction. During the extraction, proper DOH biosafety protocols shall be observed.
After extraction, all individuals will undergo strict home quarantine while waiting for their results, unless there is an emergency.
Individuals found positive in the secondary/confirmatory PCR testing shall be brought immediately to the designated isolation or quarantine facility.
Contact-tracing of household members of those found positive in the secondary/ confirmatory PCR testing will be conducted immediately.
The city government shall source the funds for necessary expenses in the implementation of the order, including the purchase of rapid test kits and other equipment, salaries of medical personnel forming the extraction teams, among others, to the Supplemental Budget 2 amounting to P1 billion.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes also issued his own executive order, which says that at least 13,959 households from 27 barangays in the city will be visited and tested by 10 teams composed of personnel from the city’s health department and DOH-7 from May 6 to May 15, 2020.
The strategic community testing aims to generate scientific data on the number of COVID-19 cases in the three cities to enable the three local government units to come up with calibrated, scientific, evidence-based, and data driven decisions and policies.
Based on results of the mass testing, the city government shall decide whether or not to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in the city or transition into a modified community quarantine or a general community quarantine.
In a statement, DOH-7 Director Jaime Bernadas said the community testing is totally different from any form of surveillance activity, massive or otherwise.
Bernadas said the disease surveillance is a regular continuous process of detecting trends of any health conditions in a community.
“The community testing is not a form of surveillance but is akin to a method of prevalence survey, which can be used as a concrete database for initiating disease surveillance,” Bernadas said.
He explained that the prevalence survey is measured by identifying old and new cases of a particular disease in proportion to the total at-risk population in a specific community over a given period of time.
“It makes use of scientific methodologies involving sample size calculation, unbiased sampling techniques such as simple random sampling and known laboratory detection tools such as the Rapid Antibody-Based Diagnostic Test (RDT) and Real Time – Polymerase Chain Reaction (rtPCR) in order to measure the burden of disease in the community,” Bernadas said.
He said it is imperative in any prevalence survey to capture evolving cases in the community.
“It is never a continuous regular process, (as can be seen in disease surveillance). Depending on the objectives and the available resources, it can be done on a single event over a period of several days or weeks until the required sample size is met,” he said.
Bernadas explained further that community testing is meant to establish the prevalence rate of COVID-19 in a particular barangay.
He said that if asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in the community are identified, the communities, as well as leaders, are assured they are one step ahead in the fight against COVID-19.
“Hence, in the forthcoming Community Testing, it is important to detect both asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 cases using the two aforementioned laboratory methods,” Bernadas said.
Meanwhile, the Mandaue City government announced yesterday that the city’s Central Quarantine Facility is nearing completion with its negative room pressure system now operational.
The negative room pressure is an isolation technique used in hospitals and medical centers to prevent cross-contamination from room to room. The air inside the facility will be sucked out by a ventilation fan and made to pass through a filter so that contaminated air cannot escape.
The comfort rooms and sinks have been installed and are ready to be used. In an isolation setting, cleanliness and hygiene is still of paramount importance.
An Alarm and Bell system has been installed and operational. This is done in order for isolated patients to call the attention of the health personnel easily in case they need anything.
The facility also has a waste collection center, which will ensure that the wastes generated by the facility will not be mixed with ordinary household garbage as they are considered contaminated. The city has hired a specialized waste disposal contractor to handle the hazardous wastes generated by the facility.
The facility was designed and built by the Mandaue City Department of General Services headed by Engr. Marivic Cabigas under the instructions of Mayor Jonas Cortes to create a quarantine facility using existing public buildings in order for the city to save money and resources, which can be used for other purposes in combating COVID-19.
The Mandaue City Central Quarantine Facility can house more than 1,000 patients in its full operational capacity. JMO (FREEMAN)