Hundreds line up at Quirino Grandstand to get free COVID test

Published July 18, 2020, 1:57 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Hundreds of motorists lined up to avail themselves of the free coronavirus test – some came even before dawn – at the soft opening of Manila City’s second drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center at the Quirino Grandstand Saturday.

MASS TESTING – Motorists queue up to avail themselves of free coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing at the drive-thru testing center set up by the City of Manila in front of the Quirino Grandstand on Saturday. The new testing center was launched to accommodate both residents and non-residents of Manila, according to Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso. (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

Both Manila and non-Manila residents aboard four, three and two-wheeled vehicles endured the long line for the much needed health procedure to check whether they contracted the virus or not  for one’s  “peace of mind” and obtain a health certificate for ease of travel to be able to go back to their hometowns.

They only brought a valid identification card (ID) to get tested.

In just an hour after the drive-thru center opened at about 10:30 a.m., at least 120 individuals were already tested, the Manila public information office (PIO) said.

The PIO expected the number to reach 415 by 3 p.m.

Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso decided to open the second testing center earlier than the scheduled 11 a.m. opening to prevent the people from waiting longer.

The testing center at the Quirino Grandstand is the second drive-thru facility in the city of Manila.  The first one is in front the Andres Bonifacio Monument near the Manila City Hall, which was opened to the public Wednesday.

The second drive-thru center was realized after National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) Executive Director Cecille Romero allowed the city to use the Grandstand premises to accommodate more people who would want a COVID-19 test.

“Noong nakita namin yung demand [When we saw the demand], after two days of operation, we came up with an assessment. So nakita namin na magtatraffic sa Lawton (we expected that there would be traffic build-up in Lawton], so we came up with an idea [of opening another one],” Domagoso told reporters in an interview Saturday. 

The testing center at the Quirino Grandstand will officially open on Monday, July 20, and will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Moreno said that he “is happy” that several members of a family are showing willingness to get tested.

“Pami-pamilya na yung nag-tetest. So, nakita mo ang eagerness ng tao na mag-volunteer to have him or her tested [People are so eager to be tested. They come here per family),” Domagoso noted, adding that 85 percent of those availing of the free test want “peace of mind.”

Currently, Domagoso said, the local government can accommodate 700 individuals at the Grandstand, while 200 at the Andres Bonifacio Monument.

He said the city will expand its testing capacity once it receives its fourth COVID-19 machine.

“Kapag dumating pa yung additional na mga makina namin, on top of the three existing, dadagdagan pa namin yung volume na kaya naming yakapin (Once our additional machine arrives, aside from the three that we have, we will ramp up testing to accommodate more people),” Domagoso said.

Manila to date has three COVID-19 machines stationed at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center, Ospital ng Sampaloc and Ospital ng Maynila which are processing the blood samples taken at the drive-thru testing facilities.

“And it’s free to everyone… We wanted to create a program na medyo [that is somehow] inclusive because, boundless, universal problem ito,” Domagoso said.

Data from the Manila Health Department showed that a total of 1,131 individuals have been tested at the city’s first drive-thru center in two days. Of this number, 68 tested positive for COVID-19.

Domagoso assured the public that the city government will continue to offer the service as long as it can.

“Hanggat kaya namin, di kami titigil. Hanggat may COVID, tuloy tuloy. Hanggat may pera kami, tuloy tuloy (We will not stop this public service for as long as COVID-19 continues to infect people and for as long as we can and we have the money, we will continue],” the city mayor assured.