MANILA - The chief implementer of the government’s COVID-19 response said Saturday expanded mass testing for over 8,000 suspected cases of coronavirus in Metro Manila will begin next week.
"Dito po sa Manila, ang testing po namin gagawin namin this coming Tuesday. Gagamitin po namin 'yung PCR (polymerase chain reaction) sa PUIs (persons under investigation) o suspected COVID cases at PUMs (persons under monitoring) mga probabale, ay kukunin na po namin so more than 8,700," Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said in an interview on DZMM radio.
(In Manila, testing will begin Tuesday. We will use the PCR for PUIs or suspected COVID cases and PUMs, probable cases, will be covered, so that's more than 8,700.)
The RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test is considered the "gold standard" in COVID-19 testing and used in accredited laboratories, unlike rapid test kits.
Under the Department of Health classification, only those who test positive in RT-PCR tests are considered confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Galvez said this can be done easily as the country's daily testing capacity may soon increase to 8,000.
"Kaya-kayang within 2 to 3 days," said Galvez, who leads implementation of the National Plan Against COVID-19.
(It can be done within 2 to 3 days.)
Galvez said mass testing is important in preparation for a possible selective enhanced community quarantine after the April 30 lockdown extension ends.
"Once na makuha na natin mga possible carriers medyo may kumpiyansa na tayong medyo magluwag ng konti. Kaya this coming Tuesday, napagkasunduan namin ng mga mayors kasama ang mga members ng RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) at testing laboratories magkakaroon na tayo ng mas masusi, mas expanded mass testing dito sa Manila," he said.
(Once we identify the possible carriers, we'll be confident that we could ease the restrictions. That's why this coming Tuesday, we agreed with the mayors and members of the RITM and testing laboratories to start careful, expanded mass testing in Metro Manila.)
Galvez said the government's strategy is to test, trace and treat coronavirus patients.
"Very critical ang mass testing it will create a very permissive situation wherein we can lift some restrictions already," he said.
Nationwide, there are an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 suspected COVID cases and more than 175 probable cases, he said.
Galvez said government has purchased 2 million rapid testing kits as reserve in case of a surge in the number of cases.
The lockdown, which was supposed to end on April 12, was extended until April 30 to further curb the spread of the highly contagious disease.
"Nakikiusap kami sa ating kababayan na konting tiis na lang po sa April 30 matatapos na po ang ating extension ng ECQ. Nakita natin na ang ECQ nagpabagal ng spread at malaki ang naitulong," he said.
(We are appealing to the public, just a bit more patience and this ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) extension will end on April 30. We see that the ECQ has slowed down the spread [of the virus] and helped a lot.)
As of Friday, the Philippines has recorded 5,878 coronavirus cases. The tally includes 387 people who succumbed to the disease while 487 have recovered.
Galvez, meanwhile, urged local government units to come up with creative ways to communicate to their residents to remain at home to help stop the spread of the virus.
"We have to weigh 'yung health, 'yung public safety issue at saka 'yung economic and social issue. Pero sa amin po ang paramount po talaga 'yung health and safety ng ating kababayan. We cannot compromise 'yung life over money," he said.
(We have to weigh the health, public safety issue and the economic and social issue. But for us, what's paramount is the health and safety of our people. We cannot compromise life over money.)