Makati drivers, vendors first to try pooled testing
“We are initially targeting 10,000 individuals, mostly PUV drivers and market vendors who are among the sectors vulnerable to the virus. Later on, the pooled swab testing will cover other sectors,” Mayor Abby Binay said.
Edd Gumban
Makati drivers, vendors first to try pooled testing
Ghio Ong (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and market vendors in Makati will be the first to undergo pooled reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for COVID-19 beginning Aug. 15, Mayor Abby Binay announced yesterday.

“We are initially targeting 10,000 individuals, mostly PUV drivers and market vendors who are among the sectors vulnerable to the virus. Later on, the pooled swab testing will cover other sectors,” she said.

Binay on Wednesday signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship and BDO Foundation to launch the implementation of the pooled RT-PCR testing, which was developed under Project ARK. Makati is co-funding the project.

Under the pooled testing method, swab samples of individuals are tested at the same time. If the result is positive, all the individuals in the pool will be tested separately. If the swab test comes back negative, there is no need to test everyone in the batch.

“I am honored that Makati 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 of patients infected with coronavirus,” Binay said.

She noted that the results of the study are expected to have a big impact on mass testing protocols and could lead to more efficient handling of COVID-19 cases nationwide. The study was pioneered by the PCMC and is now in its second phase.

Under the agreement, the city government will select groups of people or communities to be swabbed. Makati health personnel will be trained on proper swabbing and sample pooling methods. The city will apply the results of the research to its health policies and programs for better COVID-19 response.

Binay said the results of the pilot test would be shared with other local government units (LGUs) to help them improve their own COVID-19 protocols.

At the end of the one-month test period, Makati 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 that will make testing more cost-effective and provide LGUs and businesses better and clearer direction 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 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 first step,” Binay emphasized.

The PCMC will orient and train Makati’s health teams and other partners to conduct the actual testing and interpret the test results.

BDO Foundation shouldered P5 million of the project’s cost equally with Makati.

Project ARK is a private sector-led initiative to make mass testing available nationwide.

COVID-19
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