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DOH: Pooled testing only efficient in low-prevalence areas

/ 12:02 PM August 07, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The use of pooled testing in screening individuals for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will only be efficient in low-prevalence areas, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

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Using the pooled testing method, swab samples of multiple individuals will be put into a single RT-PCR test.

If a positive result came back, further individual assessments will be made to ascertain which specimen is infected with the coronavirus. Meanwhile, if the swab tests come back negative, then individual testing will no longer be needed.

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Malacañang has been claiming that the use of pooled testing will further ramp up the country’s coronavirus testing efforts.

READ: Palace teases ‘major changes’ in gov’t COVID-19 response

But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that the method, which is still currently under validation, will only be used in areas where there are low cases of COVID-19.

“Kasi ang pooled testing kapag ginamit mo sa high-prevalence areas o maraming kaso, kapag pinool mo ang mga samples na ‘yan ang dami pa ring positives na lalabas kasi nga high ang prevelance so ibig-sabihin itetest mo pa rin isa-isa ‘yan so hindi ka naging cost-efficient,” Vergeire told reporters in an online press briefing.

She noted that pooled testing will be used for “specific sectors of the population.”

“For example ‘yung mga vendors, ‘yung mga cashier sa bangko ‘yung mga ganitong hindi natin iniisip na mataas ang prevalance. By doing that we can be efficient kasi mamakapag-save tayo ng testing kit at makakapag-save tayo ng time when we do this,” Vergeire pointed out.

The DOH is now computing the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in each area in the country to ascertain where the pooled testing can be utilized.

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Vergeire likewise noted that the method is now under Phase Two of the evaluation by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Philippine Society of Pathologists.

“They are trying to evaluate kung ilang number ng pooling ang pwede nating gawin. Pwede bang lima lang, pwede bang sampu, pwede bang dalawampu in one testing,” the DOH official said.

She added that they expect the evaluation to be finished by next week.

Currently, there are 119,460 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide—the most in entire Southeast Asia. The country’s death toll climbed to 2,150 while recoveries reached 66,837.

The cases were confirmed after testing over 1.6 million samples.

Based on the DOH tracker, the number of actual COVID-19 tests done per day has gone down since July 31 when over 31,000 samples were tested.

It went down to 29,759 on August 1, 22,488 on August 2, 29,262 on August 3 and slide down again to the 23,000 mark on August 4 and 5.

/MUF

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