Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion announced that the private sector will soon launch a massive rapid testing for COVID-19.
This was discussed during a consultative meeting last April 9, attended by the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 Chair and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, NTF Chief Implementer General Carlito Galvez, industry and business leaders, and executives of large and medium conglomerates.
Concepcion highlighted that for the past weeks, both the private and public sectors have held productive dialogue, sharing ideas, strategies and proposals on how to better manage the virus, while keeping the economy afloat. These recommendations were based on the ideas shared by the private sector group particularly former health secretary Manuel Dayrit and Ayala Group’s Dr. Rizzy Alejandro as well as Dr. Minguita Padilla, Clinical Associate Professor at the Philippine General Hospital-UPCM. One of the key strategies recommended was the selective barangay quarantine, which was supported by the Secretaries.
“These two strategies are very important to ensure that after the 6-week lockdown we continue to remain guarded against the resurgence of the virus,” Concepcion said.
Business owners have agreed to initiate their own massive rapid testing in their respective companies and the barangays where they operate. The objective is to determine the number of people who might have the coronavirus and those who have already built an immunity to it after overcoming the illness. The key is to check the level of spread of the virus, so that decision-makers and business owners can have clearer insight on how to develop their internal strategies.
“By ensuring continued testing and the gathering of more data, the government and other agencies can develop a more strategic and comprehensive mitigation plan. Through this, we can also better help our frontliners – most especially doctors and nurses who are manning the hospitals – and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Once public confidence is reinstated, the Filipino working-class can get back to their jobs at the soonest possible time and revive the economy,” Concepcion added.
Private sector companies will proceed with the targeted testing of barangay residents within the next few weeks to measure the level of risk and actual infection within a community, especially Metro Manila. All procedures and guidelines will follow the Department of Health protocols, particularly DM 2020-0151 that expands community testing to include both PCR and rapid antibody testing.
At present, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and the antibody test are mostly used by global healthcare systems in testing citizens for COVID-19. PCR identifies if there is a live virus in the sick subject, while the antibody test confirms the presence of COVID-19-specific antibodies in the blood. The presence of the IgM immunoglobulin is indicative of active disease while the presence of the IgG immunoglobulin is indicative of recovery and immunity.
The PCR test can help in efforts to contain the disease, because it facilitates the identification of sick persons and contact-tracing. The antibody test, on the other hand, can help estimate the real number of cases and assess the extent of immunity in a general population or subgroups. It may also catch some mildly asymptomatic patients with the disease who do not usually make it to the hospital, and this can also help lessen the spread of the disease in the community.
“We want to use the rapid test kits properly and strategically. The use of the right testing kits is key here. They must be able to detect IgM and IgG distinctively. These kits will be validated. Determining the presence of IgG can determine who had the infection, had recovered and who may already have immunity and thus be able to reenter the workforce and restart the economy,” Dr. Padilla said. Dr. Padilla as well as Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Infectious Disease Section of the San Lazaro Hospital, and Dr. Vicente Belizario, Dean of the UP College of Public Health, lent their services and expertise to the mass testing effort.
These are the initial approaches that can be taken to determine those who are infected and those who have antibodies. If widely and rapidly applied here in the Philippines, it can provide the government and other agencies a clearer view of what steps need to be taken to further contain COVID-19.
“We are now in the process of determining the number of companies who will want to join and support this program in order to screen their employees and help the barangays around them. Sample testing on groups will be done to gauge the level of risk. The rapid testing can identify the number people who are currently infected and those who have built an immunity to the disease. We are in a modern-day war, and this is ‘bayanihan’ in action. TOGETHER, WE WILL WIN AND HEAL AS ONE,” Concepcion said.