Cebu City to pilot ‘pooled swab testing’ on market vendors | Inquirer News
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Cebu City to pilot ‘pooled swab testing’ on market vendors

/ 05:00 AM August 22, 2020

CEBU CITY — At least 4,000 market vendors in this city will undergo “pooled swab testing” starting next week as private and government entities aim to test more people for the coronavirus while saving kits and money.

Testing individuals by groups is expected to bring down the cost of swab tests, optimize the availability of test kits, and reduce the workload of laboratory staff, said Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, one of the project organizers.

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“We have to attack COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease). What we are doing will reduce the workload of the laboratories and will bring down the cost of (RT-)PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) testing, making it affordable to people,” she said in an online press briefing Friday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, “pooled swab testing” means combining respiratory samples from several people and conducting the RT-PCR test on the combined pool of samples to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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If a pooled sample is negative, all samples in that pool are considered negative. If it turns positive, each of the sample in the pool will need to be tested individually to determine which samples are positive.

Pooling via groups of five to 10 persons allows laboratories to test more samples with fewer testing materials and can be useful in scenarios like returning groups of workers to a workplace, the CDC said.

Game changer

Garin said pooled testing was good for workplaces because it would help cut the cost of the swab test, which costs up to P3,000 per individual.

With a pooled test, she said the cost will go down to about P400 per individual.

The innovation, she added, will also lessen the workload of the laboratories.

“This is the game changer that would help us coexist with COVID-19,” Garin said.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella was grateful that the Queen City of the South would be the first to benefit from the project.

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“Cebu City is a trading center. There is a moving population. This is why the importance of pooled testing cannot be overspecified. I really welcome this project. Thank you for making Cebu City part of this pilot project,” he said.

Aside from market vendors, Labella hoped taxi drivers, other public transport drivers, and food delivery couriers will also be targeted for the pooled testing.

Private-sector funded

Participating hospitals for the pilot test via pools of five persons included the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) and the University of Cebu Medical Center.

Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr., medical chief of VSMMC, said medical technologists have to be trained for this type of testing, which is now being done in China and in the American state of Nebraska.

The pilot pooled testing project is mainly funded by private sector donations through the Go Negosyo program and BDO Foundation.

If the pilot testing will be successful, it will be open for establishments so they can test workers at a lower price.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion stressed the need to continue testing more people in the country to fight the virus.

“Without testing, you cannot trace. You cannot isolate. We cannot treat,” he said.

“The two elements that we have to remember are testing and granular lockdown. I think if we can stick to that, moving forward, of course practicing the basics—wearing masks and face shields, social distancing, and washing of hands—then we would be able to ensure the safety of people while opening up our economy. This is saving both jobs and lives,” he added.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: 2019-nCoV, Cebu, Coronavirus, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Health, Local news, NcoV, nCoV update, News, novel coronavirus, pandemic, Philippine news updates, pool swab testing, regional news, Regions, Virus
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