Local testing capacity to increase: Cebu COVID-19 response hailed
CEBU, Philippines — Cebu can expect an increase in the number of COVID-19 tests per day.
In an online press briefing yesterday with local government heads and the Department of Health, Coronavirus Response Deputy Chief Implementor Secretary Vivencio Dizon, commended Cebu on its “unprecedented” response to COVID-19 especially with the observably low mortality rate in the island.
Dizon pointed out the importance of testing in combating the coronavirus disease.
“You cannot fight blind. And if we don’t test, we are fighting blind,” he said.
This is the reason why, Dizon said, the national government has decided to “put all its efforts” in augmenting the steps taken by local governments in Cebu.
Among this is the planned coordination with the private sector in increasing the testing capacity of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) from its initial capacity of 1,000 tests per day to 3,000-3,500 tests per day.
VSMMC is the biggest national sublaboratory for COVID-19 in the Visayas located in Cebu City.
Apart from this, Dizon shared that more test kits have now been delivered to VCMMC.
Rapid Diagnostic Testing (RDT) kits have also been delivered to the Office of the Presidential Assistant in the Visayas (OPAV) to aid in the massive rapid testing to be conducted in Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, and Mandaue City.
The massive rapid testing is part of “Project Balik Buhay” that OPAV chief Secretary Michael Dino is initiating as one of the government’s approaches against the COVID-19.
The three cities have already started their massive rapid testing initiative. The goal is to test 47,000 individuals or about 10 percent of the total population of residents in each of their barangays.
In this scheme, individuals will be tested using antibody-based rapid tests and those found positive will be required to take a second test under a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
To recall, RDTs were administered to the 200 Cebuano Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who arrived in the Philippines and all of them tested negative. Upon their arrival in Cebu, however, they were made to take the PCR tests. Seventeen of the 200 OFWs who supposedly tested negative for COVID-19 tested positive in the PCR.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Chief Pathologist for the Department of Health-7, explained that the false negative results could have been because of the continual “shedding in the body” which the PCR tested as positive. She said it could also be that the tests used in Manila “did not show the IgM or IgG type.”
She also assured that the types of rapid test kits procured by the three cities are FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved and “has a better yield.”
“In any test or diagnostic tool, number one, there is no absolute, it’s a fool-proof test. In short, the PCR has its own usefulness and the RDT has its own usefulness,” she said.
She also pointed out this is why both tests combined would produce more accurate results.
PCR tests are now being used in the National Capital Region on repatriated OFWs travelling to their respective areas in the country.
The Province of Cebu will also use the PCR tests for its own strategic massive testing.
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, in the same online press conference, explained Cebu Province has a different culture and varied demographics compared to three cities. JMO (FREEMAN)