QC gov’t partners with private group for rapid testing

By Chito Chavez

The Quezon City government said on May 23, Saturday, that it has partnered with a private group to enhance its rapid testing process and raise its proactive efforts to identify the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in some barangays.

Quezon City (QC) Mayor Joy Belmonte (Facebook / Manila Bulletin) Quezon City (QC) Mayor Joy Belmonte
(Facebook / Manila Bulletin File photo)

Mayor Joy Belmonte said the city received 3,800 rapid antibody-based diagnostic test (RDTs) kits from Project Ark, a private sector initiative. The said kits will be used to screen and identify residents from selected barangays.

“We appreciate the support of the private sector especially Project Ark in our battle against COVID-19. This initiative complements our efforts of intensive community testing to identify patients from our barangays,” Belmonte said.

On May 18, 1500 rapid tests were conducted in four barangays: Immaculate Concepcion, Kristong Hari, Kalugusan, and Dona Aurora. These barangays were identified to be the pilot areas based on their population, active cases and attack rate of the virus in the area.

Belmonte noted these barangays are located along Quezon City’s hospital belt, an area with hospitals accommodating COVID-19 patients. “Given this, many health workers also reside in these areas making them more at risk of contracting the virus,’’ a QC government statement read.

Data from the Quezon City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (QCESU) revealed that 25 percent of all positive patients in Quezon City are health workers. The rapid diagnostic test identifies the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies which are generated by the body in response to COVID-19 infection.

“The presence of IgM presumes that a person’s immune system is still responding to the infection. While IgG positive speculates that antibodies were developed after they have already fought off the virus in the recent past,’’ the statement added.

Out of the 1500 residents, only .33 percent tested positive for IgM. These residents are then swabbed using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for confirmation and are brought to HOPE facilities while waiting for their PCR results.

Additionally, Belmonte noted that 87 percent were tested positive for IgG. Joseph Juico, project manager for community testing, explained that IgG positive residents should still practice health protocols. “Just because they turned out positive for IgG only and negative for IgM, does not make them invincible to the virus. That is why we still strongly recommend them to be cautious and practice health protocols such as disinfecting, wearing masks, and social distancing”Juico said.

He said that the 11 areas under special concern lockdown in five barangays were also being tested using 4,000 RDT kits since May 21. These areas include Sitio Militar in Barangay Bahay Toro, Vargas Compound-Adelfa Metro Heights-Abanay and Ancop Canada in Barangay Culiat, Lower Gulod in Barangay Sauyo, 318 Dakila St., 2nd Alley Kalayaan B and Masbate St. in Barangay Batasan Hills and Victory Avenue, ROTC Hunters, BMA Avenue and Agno St. in Barangay Tatalon.

As of May 22, Juico said 1,419 rapid tests have been conducted in these five barangays and only 5.99 percent were tested positive for IgM. Eleven individuals who were tested negative but are symptomatic were also subjected for swabbing, bringing the total number of residents endorsed for PCR testing to 96.

Juico explained that those who were tested positive for IgM will automatically be subjected for the PCR test. “If they turned out positive for the IgM component of the rapid test, they will immediately undergo swab testing in the same testing area,” Juico said.

“If they are negative for IgG and IgM antibodies but are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they will still undergo swabbing,” he added. Juico said that these patients will follow protocols of community-based testing where after the swab test, they will be brought to the HOPE community caring facilities and adhere to strict quarantine procedures.

Belmonte also reiterated the importance of the PCR test to ensure accurate COVID-19 infection. “PCR testing plays a major role because at the end of the day, it is still the gold standard of testing.” Belmonte explained that regardless of the results, “all tested using RDT kits will continue to do quarantine and practice health protocols such as social distancing, wearing masks and washing of hands.’’

“With the combination of rapid testing, swab testing and the lockdown of these areas, we are amplifying the detection and mitigation of the virus,” Belmonte ended.