EXPLAINER: Remember the tri-city mass testing? How they'll use what they've learned from the survey.

Pachico A. Seares

THE SITUATION. Health experts Friday, May 29, spoke about the results of the "massive testing" that Cebu City, Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City had completed just days before shifting to general quarantine on June 1.

Their talk was on Facebook live and a press release about the findings was circulated by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), which initiated what was billed as the Tri-City Balik Buhay Program.

If anything substantial was reported in regular media, the news archives don't show it. Many people don't know what the survey found out and how the three cities will use the information.

The apparent silence with which the product was met seems odd for a project that has been swirled in controversy, including a failed attempt in the City Council to stop its funding and persistent questions, mostly in social media, about the cost and source of the test kits and the method used. The confusion-marred transition Monday to GCQ by all LGUs in Cebu must have buried the story.

Health experts

The health experts to whom OPAV's Jonji Gonzales attributed the information were:

[1] Dr. Junji Zuasula, head of the DOH Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit;

[2] Dr. Mary Jean Lureche, DOH chief pathologist; and

[3] Dr. Jaime Bernadas, DOH regional director

What they found out

Sixteen barangays in Cebu City that reported zero active cases of Covid-19 had asymptomatic persons who were discovered by the tests to have active infection (IgM) or past infection (IgG).

"Some" barangays in Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City that also had zero Covid-10 cases were also found to have active infection. Cebu City has 2.2 percent per 100 households of active infection, from 1.1 percent to 13 percent, with Mandaue City, 1.4 percent, and Lapu-Lapu, 1.6 percent.

Only few tests using the gold-standard Polymerase Chain-Reaction (PCR) process had been made, which must explain why many asymptomatic but Covid-positive persons were not uncovered. The tri-city's Rapid Antibody Test (RAT), on the other hand, covered a lot more people.

The "prevalence survey" ascertained that 80 percent of the infected individuals were asymptomatic, the health experts said.

When to lock or unlock

As DOH regional chief Bernadas explained it, the PCR test identifies the virus while the RAT determines the anti-bodies to deal with the virus.

The information from the survey may be used by the three cities:

[1] for deciding when to "lock down or unlock" in certain barangays, sitios, zones or compounds;

[2] where to activate testing, tracing and treating;

[3 to find out old and new Covid cases.

Under the general quarantine or GCQ that now rules the entire Cebu, "sequential and segmental" quarantines are allowed, where restrictions may be tighter than in the rest of the LGU's territory.

Tools, 'dynamic' CQ

The information from the tri-city survey will provide the tools for that, Bernadas said.

The "hypothesis" of the project was to find out the extent of infection, especially among Covid-struck people who show no symptoms of active or past infection.

The health experts recommend a "dynamic quarantine," probably meaning an ever-changing set of restrictions, depending on where the virus has struck and tends to spread.