THE Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in the Visayas has recommended mass testing in six Cebu City areas under granular lockdown as well as the city’s biggest public market, Carbon.
Retired General Melquiades Feliciano, deputy chief implementer of IATF Visayas, said on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, the mass testing is part of government’s strategy to contain the spread of the coronavirus in areas with a high rate of Covid-19 infection.
“Now we know where the virus is, so we will now identify the extent of the infection, isolate them and provide necessary health interventions,” Feliciano said.
Strategic contact tracing will also be carried out during the mass testing to contain the spread of the virus, Feliciano added.
The retired general said he will discuss the plan with Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the Department of Health (DOH) 7, who recommended the mass testing.
Among the things to be discussed is the type of testing kit to be used, whether rapid or real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Rapid or immunoassay testing uses blood samples to measure a patient’s antibodies. However, it is unable to detect the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The PCR test, on the other hand, requires nose and throat swab samples from a patient. It includes reagents and other chemicals to check if a patient’s sample has the Covid-19 virus.
Loreche, in a separate interview, said she will decide on which testing kit to use based on cost effectiveness and other benefits after a scheduled meeting on Wednesday, July 29.
Aside from areas under granular lockdown, the mass testing will include the stall owners, vendors and helpers at the Carbon Public Market.
Carbon Market has about 4,000 stall owners excluding their helpers.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, in an executive order, placed Sitio C. Mina extension in Barangay Mabolo, Sitio Cekalco in Barangay Labangon, Tuada compound in Barangay Tisa, Sitio San Isidro and Abellanosa Compound in Barangay Quiot, and Sitio Eyha in Barangay Guadalupe under lockdown.
The inclusion of Carbon Market was based on reports that most of the infected individuals in the locked down areas had been to Carbon, which is located in Barangay Ermita.
Should the plan push through, the City government is expected to spend around P4 million to acquire the test kits, said Dr. Michelle Linsalata, Cebu City Health Department (CCHD) assistant head.
Testing will be conducted by the DOH, she added.
She said the IATF is now closely coordinating with the Cebu City Market Administrator, officials of Barangay Ermita, and the market vendors’ association.
“It is important that we do this right away before we revert back to GCQ (general community quarantine). We are hoping by Aug. 1 those vendors who test positive will already be isolated because if not, that will be the source of another infection,” Linsalata said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Meanwhile, Feliciano said more areas may yet be placed under granular lockdown as the chiefs of the 26 barangays with the highest recorded infections now want certain areas in their jurisdiction to be placed under lockdown.
Feliciano believes there is still a need to further reduce infections and contain the virus before Cebu City downgrades its community quarantine status to GCQ in August. (PAC)