Makati City Mayor Abby Binay has announced that the city government will prioritize public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and market vendors when it starts pooled RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 on August 15.
“We are initially targeting 10,000 individuals, mostly PUV drivers and market vendors who are among the sectors that are most exposed to the virus. Later on, the pooled testing method can be applied to other sectors,” Binay said.
Makati City is the first local government unit (LGU) to conduct pooled testing.
Binay on Aug. 5 signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, and the BDO Foundation to formally begin the pilot implementation of the pooled RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing developed under Project ARK.
Under the pooled testing method, swab samples of multiple individuals are tested at the same time and if the result is positive, all individuals in the pool will be tested separately.
Binay said that if the swab test comes back negative, there is no need to test everyone in the batch.
“I am honored that Makati City is taking the lead in this groundbreaking initiative. COVID-19 is bigger than all of us. As mayor, I will gladly take on additional responsibility if it would lead to better testing, isolation and treatment for patients infected with the coronavirus,” Binay said.
Study to impact mass-testing protocols
The mayor also noted that the results of the study are expected to have a big impact on mass-testing protocols and could lead to the more efficient handling of coronavirus cases all over the country.
Binay explained that under the agreement, the city will select groups of people or communities to swabbed by Makati health personnel who will be trained in proper swabbing and sample pooling methods.
She said the city will then apply the results of the research to its own health policies and programs for better COVID-19 response, adding that the results of the pilot test will be shared with other LGUs to help them improve their own COVID-19 protocols.
Binay said that at the end of the one-month test period, the city is expected to come up with a pooled testing protocol which will enable the city and other institutions to optimize the availability of test kits, reduce the workload on testing laboratory staff, identify and isolate large groups of negative cases which will make testing more cost-effective, and provide LGUs and businesses better and clearer directions for decision-making.
“Makati has the means, resources, and more importantly, the commitment to go beyond simply treating persons with coronavirus. We want to help improve processes and lighten the load of our overburdened healthcare workers. We may not find a cure or a vaccine in the very near future, but we can improve how communities handle testing and isolation. I believe this is a very important step,” Binay emphasized.
Makati among first LGUs to adopt mass testing
Binay added that Makati’s selection for the partnership is a vote of confidence on the treatment protocols and procedures established by the COVID-19 Task Force led by Makati Health Department (MHD) since the beginning of the pandemic.
She also pointed out that the city has remained consistent in using RT- PCR testing, considered the gold standard by health experts.
“We recognize that accuracy and reliability are more important than lower cost and convenience,” Binay said.
Makati City was among the first LGUs in Metro Manila to implement mass testing as the MHD began testing front liners, City Hall employees, and members of the police force for the coronavirus on April 22.
As of July 14, the city has tested more than 10,000 individuals.
The PCMC, for its part, will orient and train Makati’s health team and other partners to conduct the actual testing and interpret the test results.
BDOF shared the P5-million cost of the project equally with Makati City.Project ARK is a private sector-led initiative to make mass testing available nationwide.