More samples sent to RITM for ‘confirmation’

Wenilyn Sabalo

SWAB samples taken from six patients under investigation (PUIs) that were tested at the sub-national laboratory at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) have been sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa, for confirmatory testing after initial findings were found to be unclear.

The six samples were among 31 new specimens tested at the VSMMC sub-national laboratory on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

The remaining 25 samples tested negative for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Jaime Bernadas, Department of Health-Central Visayas director, explained the samples tagged as “for confirmation” should not be automatically taken to mean as cases that had initially tested positive for the Covid-19.

“Dili pa (Not yet). Suffice it to say that it is for confirmation,” Bernadas said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

He assured that there has yet been no positive Covid-19 case tested at the VSMMC.

However, Bernadas refused to answer questions on what would qualify for a case to be forwarded to the RITM for confirmation since not all test results are sent to the national laboratory.

It would be “too technical” and only the laboratory concerned could answer the question, Bernadas said.

Bernadas said what is important is that pro-active containment measures are already being done even if confirmatory results have yet to arrive.

With the six new specimens sent to the RITM, a total of nine cases from the VSMMC are now awaiting results of confirmatory tests.

On Monday, March 23, one of the first four samples taken from PUIs at the VSMMC testing center that were sent to the RITM for confirmation tested negative for the Covid-19, Bernadas said.

Bernadas clarified that although majority of the samples tested at the VSMMC sub-national laboratory were from Region 7, the VSMMC testing center also caters to the other regions in the Visayas including areas in Mindanao that are closer to the Visayas region.

Central Visayas

As of Monday, DOH 7 recorded a total of 23 persons with Severe acute respiratory infection (Sari) admitted in hospitals across the region while a total of 304 persons were reported by the health agency to have influenza-like illnesses (ILI).

Of the persons with ILI, 288 are under home isolation while 16 are admitted in hospitals.

Most of the persons with ILI were recorded in Bohol and Negros Oriental, according to the DOH 7.

The region also has a total of 14,662 persons under monitoring (PUMs) for the Covid-19. Of these, 14,640 are under home quarantine while 22 are in various health-care facilities.

Of the 14,662 PUMs, 5,564 are in Bohol; 4,233 in Cebu; 2,910 in Negros Oriental; 621 in Siquijor; 480 in Cebu City; 360 in Lapu-Lapu City, and 494 in Mandaue City.

Earlier reported PUMs and PUIs, including arriving overseas Filipino workers, will be continuously monitored, Bernadas said.

He asked local government units to prepare their own containment facilities for persons with ILI since hospitals are prioritizing Sari cases.

Discrimination

Meanwhile, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes appealed to the public not to discriminate against health workers who are the frontliners in the fight against the Covid-19.

Reports have reached Cortes that some health workers are finding it difficult to get a ride on public utility vehicles.

Some, he said, are even banned from their boarding houses as the landlords fear they may bring with them the virus and spread it among the boarders.

Cortes discussed the matter with the administrators of hospitals in the city.

Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue and the University of Cebu-Medical Center will provide buses for their hospital workers.

The Mandaue City government also stationed two buses in front of the Mandaue City Hall that would bring health workers to and from work.

Lawyer John Eddu Ibañez, the mayor’s executive secretary, said two hotels in the city have allowed the use of 20 rooms each to house health workers from private and public hospitals free of charge.

Each room will accommodate only one health worker, according to Ibañez.

“Once there are health personnel who wish to stay, they can contact us and we will facilitate them through the City Mayor’s office,” said Ibañez in a mix of Cebuano and English.

He said a doctor was banned by his landlord after the latter learned of his profession.

“They deserve rest, and they deserve our respect. They are working hard and risked their lives for us,” said Ibañez.

Other hotels that wish to do the same for health workers are encouraged to contact the Mandaue City Government to apply.

Other frontliners such as police personnel are being housed in a function hall on the second floor of the Mandaue City Public Market.

Free parking

In Cebu City, Mayor Edgardo Labella has issued two new executive orders.

The first, EO 63, is an order for the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) to temporarily stop the collection of parking fees from medical and health personnel whose vehicles are parked in Cebu City government-operated parking facilities until the state of general community quarantine ends. The order is set to take effect immediately.

Those covered in the parking fee exemption are DOH employees, government hospitals, the Cebu City Health Department, private health workers but not limited to medical professionals, hospital administrative staff and aides from private health facilities as well as their service providers; and health workers and volunteers of the Philippine Red Cross and World Health Organization.

To avail of the privilege, they must show the parking attendant their company ID as proof that they are currently working in a hospital or medical facility.

Labella also issued EO 62 directing business process outsourcing (BPO) and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) firms and export-oriented industries to fully implement business contingency measures during the entire state of general community quarantine to ensure the safety of their employees against Covid-19.

The contigency measures may include temporary accommodation and transportation for employees living within a two-kilometer radius from the workplace and basic supplies in their pantries for employees who choose to stay within the office premises.

Other developments:

Ninety more confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported Tuesday, March 25, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 552.

Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the number of cases will continue to increase with more test kits available and with the establishment of five sub-national laboratories in the country.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, 20 patients have recovered, while the death toll increased to 35 from 33. More than 700 have tested negative for Covid-19.

She appealed to the public to stay home and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. (KFD, JCT, SunStar Philippines)