MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health on Friday clarified that it would continue to test residents of Sitio Zapatera in Barangay Luz, Cebu after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area, contrary to reports that testing there would be stopped.
The sitio recorded an additional 82 cases on Friday, bringing the total caseload there to 135, according to the local government. This has prompted Mayor Edgardo Labella to declare a community lockdown on Barangay Luz.
Local health officials were also reported as saying that testing would be stopped, raising concerns that the COVID-19 count there won’t be reflected in the national tally.
But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing that this is not true.
“Hindi po totoo na hindi na ite-test ang mga tao dito sa Sitio Zapatera. Dahil po sa expanded testing magte-testing pa rin sila dito,” she said.
(It’s not true that we won’t test the people in Sitio Zapatera anymore. Because of expanded testing we’ll be able to test them.)
Expanded testing began this week after public clamor for mass testing for COVID-19. The government vowed to run more tests while prioritizing severe cases and high-risk patients.
Vergeire confirmed that the COVID-19 positive cases in Sitio Zapatera has been counted in the total for Central Visayas.
“Mahalaga pa rin pong linawin na ang confirmed cases ay iyon lang pong pasyenteng nakagamit ng RT-PCR,” she explained. “At hindi po natin basta-basta idadadgdag sa bilang ng mga kaso ang lahat ng residente sa Sitio Zapatera.”
(It’s important that we clarify that those considered confirmed cases are only those who were tested using RT-PCR. And we can’t just include the whole population of Sitio Zapatera in the number of cases.)
RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test kits are the gold standard for COVID-19 testing, according to the DOH. These are used in accredited laboratories only, as opposed to rapid test kits.
Vergeire said the whole sitio has already been placed under quarantine because of the community transmission.
“Nakikipagtulungan po ang DOH sa LGU ng Cebu upang mapabilis ang pagtatayo ng community quarantine center sa lugar na ito upang mai-isolate at masubaybayan ang mga pasyente sa pook na ito,” she said.
(The DOH is coordinating with the LGU of Cebu to expedite the construction of a community quarantine center in the area to isolate and monitor the patients there.)
As of Friday, there have been 5,878 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Since the pandemic started, 487 of these patients have recovered and 387 have died.
- With a report from Annie Perez, ABS-CBN News