By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Private companies have started the mass screening of employees for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) under the private-sector led initiative Project Ark, according to Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.
Close to 1.1 million rapid antibody test kits have been procured by the private sector to boost the number of people that can be tested for COVID-19 in the country, he said in an interview over DZBB.
Of the total kits, about 400,000 of these have been delivered to the various companies, allowing them to start with the testing of their employees, Concepcion pointed out.
"It is a big challenge for business to know that many of their employees do not want to return to work because of the threat of the coronavirus disease," he said.
Concepcion noted that the rapid antibody testing makes the employees feel at ease when they go outside their houses.
"The employees are happy knowing that they have compassionate employers. This boosts employee morale at work," he added.
Rapid test kit vs PCR
"You cannot blame many people using rapid antibody test kits because for them frequency is better than testing only once a month. With RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) testing, you are protected for the day itself but if you go outside your house, the chance of infection is very high," Concepcion said.
For now, he noted that the private sector has no capacity to conduct RT-PCR testing for all its employees due to its high cost at around P4,000 to P8,000 per test. In comparison, the rapid antibody test kit costs about P450 and can be conducted twice a month.
"That will only cost the company P900 per employee," he said.
"As we look forward to the end of the month that the economy will fully open, the biggest challenge now is how can we maintain it. We cannot allow another lockdown because we are already drained," Concepcion said.
"We don't want the government stimulus package to appear that it was useless. We could go back to distributing social amelioration again. The only defense we have right now is to really do testing, massive testing focused on our employees," he added.