By Chito A. Chavez
The Quezon City government said on Thursday that community-based testing for the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) will start next week to enable city health officials to administer proper health care and determine the accurate number of people afflicted by the virus.
With next week’s mass COVID-19 testing, Quezon City Health Department (QCHD) head Dr. Esperanza Arias hopes to reduce the number of such cases to manageable levels in the locality.
She noted the city government aims to initially conduct 1,300 tests with testing kits coming from the Department of Health (DOH) next week in areas that have the highest number of persons under investigation (PUIs).
“We need to flatten the curve by testing PUIs and putting them in one of our facilities while waiting for their results,” said Arias. “We want to avoid a situation where the patient might infect a relative whose immune system is compromised.”
The local government will obtain additional 1,500 test kits through its partnership with the Philippine Red Cross next week. It is also in the process of procuring 10,000 swab kits and universal transfer mediums, where samples will be placed for testing.
Dr. Rolando Cruz, head of the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the QCHD, clarified that people showing symptoms of COVID-19 will also be tested.
“We will test people with cough and colds, influenza-like symptoms o mga tina-trangkaso (or those with fever), and acute respiratory infection,” said Cruz.
Testing centers will be equipped with swab booths that could provide protection for healthcare workers and help save on personal protective equipment (PPE) at the same time.
Arias noted that samples will then be sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for testing, with results expected to be released in two to three days.
“Sa ngayon, RITM lang ang nagra-run ng tests kaya tumatagal ito (As of now, RITM is the only one running the tests that is why it takes a long time). But we are setting up partnerships with Red Cross, St. Luke’s, and the Lung Center,” said Arias.
If the partnerships with various hospitals are finalized, Arias said waiting time will be drastically reduced to about an hour.
“Those who have symptoms from urban poor communities, as well as those who will be tested positive, will be referred to our HOPE facilities,” said Arias.
Mayor Joy Belmonte said community-based testing is crucial in flattening the curve, in addition to social distancing and mass testing.
“If we can have all three things together, we can secure our city and protect the population from further contamination,” Belmonte concluded.