Cebu City opens free drive-thru swab testing
CEBU CITY—Free swab testing for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was opened to the public in this city on Friday in a bid to detect and contain the spread of the disease.
The “drive-thru and walk-thru” COVID-19 testing at the government-run regional hospital Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City was the first outside Metro Manila and meant to expand the services of the government to get more people tested using the more accurate reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, specially those who could not afford the RT-PCR test that costs around P8,000.
Manila City also piloted a drive-thru mass testing given for free to residents and nonresidents but using the serology machines that, like in the rapid testing method, collect blood samples from patients to detect for presence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The Manila city government’s has two drive-thru testing facilities at Plaza Lawton near the Manila City Hall and at the Quirino Grandstand. A walk-in testing center was also established at the Ospital ng Sampaloc and would soon be available in other hospitals in the city such as the Ospital ng Tondo and Ospital ng Maynila.
Like fast-food drive-thru
In Cebu City’s drive-thru swabbing, “you don’t even need to go out of your car,” said lawyer Rey Cris Panugaling, head of VSMMC’s Information, Communication and Strategy Management Office. “It’s just like when you are going in a drive-thru of a fast food chain. We simply want the community to get tested. This is for the public and this is for free.”
The services can be availed of from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday at a kiosk located outside the VSMMC.
RT-PCR test, which uses actual swabs from a patient’s nose or throat, the most popular testing method for COVID-19 in the Philippines and is still considered by health authorities as the “gold standard” for detecting the coronavirus.
The other method—rapid antibody test—requires the patient’s blood sample and can only detect antibodies. The body produces antibodies in response to an infectious agent such as a virus.
Panugaling said they are targeting to conduct RT-PCR test to at least 200 persons a day at 10 to 20 clients per hour.
There will be no lunch breaks, he said, to ensure that everyone who wants to be tested will be accommodated.
Those who want to be tested must first register online at https://bit.ly/vsmmconline to secure an appointment.
An appointment schedule will be provided during the online registration, the date and time of which would depend on the next available time once the daily cut-off of 200 persons has been reached. During the appointed time, the registered individual has to present a government-issued identification card prior to the actual swab testing.
Panugaling said the results of the COVID-19 tests will be sent through email after four days.
If a person tests positive for COVID-19, the local government unit where he or she comes from will also receive a copy of the test results from the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas so that local officials can immediately conduct contact tracing.
The program is in line with the expanded testing guidelines issued by the DOH in Memorandum No. 2020-0258-A, he said.
As of July 23, Cebu City still has the most number of COVID-19 cases among the local government units in the country at 8,467, with 4,770 recoveries and 441 deaths, according to the DOH.
At least 1,165 persons were admitted in hospitals while 2,091others stayed at the different quarantine facilities in the city.
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