Day 1 of strategic mass testing: Low turnout in Cebu City

CEBU, Philippines —  Turnout was low on the first day of targeted mass testing for COVID-19, at least in Cebu City, yesterday, May 6, 2020.

Only 195 residents from three barangays agreed to submit themselves to the test – 83 in Basak San Nicolas, 63 in Inayawan, and 49 in Basak Pardo – a far cry from the city’s 2,000 target.

But Mayor Edgardo Labella said the test is voluntary.

“Voluntary man na. Bisan pa og ni-sign sila, og dili sila motunga, di ta kapugos,” Labella said.

(That’s voluntary. Even if they signed up, we can’t force them if they don’t show up)

Still, he is hopeful that more residents will volunteer to get tested. The mass testing will run until May 15.

Per Executive Order 75 that Labella issued the other day, the Diagnostic Tests (RDTs), which involves blood extraction, 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.


In Mandaue City, chief information officer, Atty. John Eddu Ibañez, said some residents were cooperative but the others also refused to undergo the test.

Like Labella, he said the test is voluntary.

“Naay cooperative naa pud dili magpatest. Dili man mandatory. Voluntary man ta,” Ibañez said.

(There are those were cooperative but others also did not want to be tested. It’s not mandatory. It’s voluntary)

All in all, the city tested 886 residents from Barangays Cubacub, Tawason, Casili, Basak, and Tingub, lower than its target of 1,657 residents.

Of the 886 tested, 337 are from Cubacub, 241 are from Tawason, 140 are from Casili, 108 are from Basak, and 60 are from Tingub.

Mandaue wants to test 13,959 residents in 10 days.

In a statement, the city reminded its residents:

“If you are a respondent who will be swabbed, please self-isolate while waiting for your confirmatory RT-PCR result. If, unfortunately, a respondent/patient is positive, and s/he is:

*asymptomatic – s/he will be taken to the Barangay Isolation Unit.

*symptomatic (mild to moderate) – s/he will be taken to the Mandaue City Central Quarantine Facility.

*needs hospital care – s/he will be taken to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center or, if the patient chooses, a private hospital.”

Contact tracing will also be conducted right away.”


Neighboring Lapu-Lapu City is yet to assess its first day of testing but city health officer Agnes Cecille Realiza said the test was done at 11 barangays in Olango Island. Like in Mandaue, some residents were cooperative while the others chose not to be tested.

Lapu-Lapu Mayor Junard Chan called on residents not to be afraid of the test.

“Dili ta ngay mahadlok o mabalaka (on the rapid tests) kay kon ikaw gusto ka nga mabalik ta sa normal nga kinabuhi, we need your cooperation, we need your support,” he said.

(We don’t need to be scared or worried about the rapid tests because we need your cooperation and support if you want us to return to normal)

Lapu-Lapu aims to test 12,000 residents.

Chan said there will be two tests: rapid test and Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Those who will test positive in the rapid test will be tested again through PCR. Once confirmed positive via PCR, patients will be transferred to the city’s isolation facilities.

While many prefer the PCR test, Chan said the Vicente Sotto hospital, the only medical facility that processes these tests, can only handle a few tests in a day.

Data Driven decision

The strategic community testing is part of the Project Balik Buhay spearheaded by Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) in coordination with the Department of Health and the three urban cities.

It aims to generate scientific data on the number of COVID-19 cases in the three cities to enable the city governments 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) or transition into a modified community quarantine or a general community quarantine.  JMO (FREEMAN)


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