By Ellson Quismorio
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte has underscored the importance of mass-testing for COVID-19 at the local government level at this stage of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“It is important for LGUs (local government units) to conduct COVID-19 testing and subsequent contact tracing because these are ways of finding out which areas should be locked down if there is a need later on to keep certain communities under selective quarantine to stop the further spread of the deadly virus,” he said.
It can be recalled that President Duterte ordered the extension of the month-long ECQ for two more weeks, from April 13 to April 30. The Luzon-wide quarantine is meant to limit the movement of people in an effort to slow down or altogether halt the spread of the virus that causes the deadly illness.
Villafuerte, a former provincial governor, said Camarines Sur has so far recorded five confirmed COVID-19 cases, with one death and three recoveries.
In connection with his call for mass-testing, Villafuerte said Camarines Sur has acquired 20,000 rapid test kits for COVID-19 from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories. These particular kits are known to deliver positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in about 13 minutes.
Abbott has developed its own “serology test” that determines whether or not a person has had the disease and developed antibodies that protect them from future infection, the House leader said.
He described the particular test kits as a breakthrough since these will enable institutions to identify which of the tested people have developed antibodies or natural defense against the new coronavirus and could thus be discharged from clinical treatment.
Villafuerte said the Provincial Capitol purchased rapid antibody test kits using funds from the P6-billion Bayanihan Grant released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the 81 provincial LGUs, equivalent to a half-month Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) share of every province.
A total of 50,000 Abbott test kits are due for delivery to the Philippines. However, the solon did not say which group or groups had bought the other 30,000 test kits.
Villafuerte, a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee monitoring the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act, also said that Camarines Sur has converted its newly-built provincial hospital into its main COVID-19 facility that is equipped with about two dozen ventilators for the use of patients in critical condition.
He said the provincial government had recently tapped local funds to purchase 15 of the ventilators—the single biggest one-time acquisition of apparatus by a provincial LGU in the entire country.