Test backlogs cause jump in Cebu City Covid-19 cases

THE surge of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in Cebu City in the past few days was due to backlogs of specimen testing and test results in two laboratories last May, a regional health official said.

This was not caused by the easement of restrictions in the city’s general community quarantine status, which has been implemented since June 1, 2020, said Dr. Jaime Bernadas, director of the Department of Health (DOH) 7.

Cebu City is on GCQ status until June 15. And the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to decide whether to extend the GCQ status of the city or lower it to modified GCQ status.

The residents can move and report to work, and essential services in barangays are allowed under GCQ.

Under modified GCQ, movement is not restricted but mask wearing, physical distancing and other health protocols are enforced by authorities.

Cebu City Health Officer Daisy Villa said the delay in the release of the results also caused a delay in tracing the persons who tested positive for Covid-19.

Lab woes

In early May, Bernadas said there was a problem of the availability of reagents, extraction kits and extraction machine. This resulted in limited testing of specimens or swab samples.

The backlogs surfaced when the swab samples kept on coming and the problems were not fixed yet.

In Central Visayas, the swab samples are tested at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center-Subnational Laboratory and the Department of Health TB Reference Laboratory. Both laboratories are located in Cebu City.

After the problems at the laboratories were fixed, these have been functioning well since the later part of May.

“There were days that we had a low number of cases because the machine had problems,” Bernadas said in Cebuano.

After the laboratories went on full swing, the testing of samples pushed through and the DOH 7 recorded several positive cases, said Bernadas.

Derailed tracing

Villa said the city health workers failed to conduct contact tracing in time because of the delay in the release of the results.

“If the reading is delayed, the action is also delayed,” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

When some results of the swab tests came out in the last week of May, the health workers doubled their efforts in locating persons who were in close contact with the Covid-19 patients.

Villa reminded the public to still practice the minimum health protocol such as wearing of masks, proper hygiene and physical distancing. / JJL