Gov’t eyes to test all drivers; swab testing center launched in QC

Published July 31, 2020, 11:12 AM

by Joseph Almer Pedrajas

The government aims to test all drivers as part of its “long term plan” in handling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis with the launching of a swab testing center at the Quezon City (QC) Memorial Center.

Joseph Juico, project manager of Quezon City’s community-based testing, said that based on their latest discussion with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the plan is to include jeepney, tricycle, bus and other drivers in the testing program.

For the meantime, he said, the 60,000 nationwide Grab drivers are already set to get tested, while authorities are still crafting the protocols and guidelines for other drivers.

“From how I understood… that’s the long term plan that they want to do,” Juico told Manila Bulletin when asked for clarification about Presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s pronouncement that all individuals will now be tested following the Mega Swab Testing Activity at the QC Memorial Circle Thursday.

“…lahat po ng tsuper, lahat po ng mga medical workers, at lahat po ng nais, gustong magpa-test, kung kakayanin, ay bibigyan na po natin ng test. Simula lang po ito [All drivers, all medical workers and all those who want to get tested, if possible, we will test them. This is only the beginning],” Roque said in an interview over DZRH.

Roque added he would “not be surprised” if the country would be able to test “3/4” of the population with the arrival of “10 million test kits” and the initiation of “pooled testing.”

Juico said the city, which hosts the “mega swabbing activity,” still has to come up with the guidelines so as not to lose public transportation when drivers finally troop to the testing area.

“Kung i-tetest natin sila sabay sabay, baka mamaya kunti, wala na mamasada [If we would test all drivers together, I’m afraid, there will be no available public transportation],” he said, “But definitely, the plan is, from what they say, it’s doable, given they have an abundance in test kits and laboratory partners.”

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, meanwhile, expressed her gratitude to the national government for trusting the city to host a swab testing center for the tens of thousands of Grab drivers.

Juico said, the local government is helping the IATF through providing manpower, such as swabbers and data encoders, and in terms of logistical needs.

Currently, Juico added, the testing center can conduct 500 RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests per day, with the help of 24 testing booths and one city mobile testing unit. However, Juico furthered, they’re aiming to reach 1,500 tests in the future.

“Well, ang gusto ng national government saka ng Grab is to test 1,500 per day [what the national government and Grab wants is to test 1,500 individuals per day]. We’ll be moving it to a different location [still in Quezon City]. It will be announced,” he said.