Gov't eyes COVID-19 'pool testing' for Metro Manila residents

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2020 03:27 PM

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MANILA — The government eyes using "pool testing" to detect the presence of the novel coronavirus among Metro Manila residents, an official leading the effort said Thursday. 

One kit is currently used for every coronavirus polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, said testing czar Vince Dizon. 

Under pool testing, specimens are grouped by 10 or 20 and undergo one PCR test. If one specimen yields a negative result, all the specimens in that batch are deemed negative, he said. 

But if one tests positive, the pool will be halved and tested again. This step will be repeated, further shrinking the pool, until the test identifies the sample that produced the positive test result, Dizon said in an interview with Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Kung gagamitin natin pool PCR testing, kaya ba natin lahat ng 14 million [residents] dito sa Metro Manila?" Roque asked. 

(If we use pool PCR testing, can we screen all 14 million residents in Metro Manila.)

"Kakayanin po," replied Dizon. "Lalabas na po iyan sa review ng Department of Health." 

(We can. That will come out in a review by the health department.)

Metro Manila is the region with the highest COVID-19 tally. It accounts for 39,164 cases out of the nationwide total of 72,269 cases, according to the DOH website

Metro Manila and neighboring areas have 4 "mega swabbing centers" for PCR tests, namely: the SM Mall of Asia Arena, Palacio De Manila, Philippine Arena, and another facility in Taguig City, said Dizon. 

The SM MOA screening center runs 2,000 to 2,500 tests daily for free. Those who want to get tested only need to line up and do not need to set an appointment. They will get results through text or email within 3 days, Dizon said. 

The Philippines has screened nearly 1.3 million people with PCR tests. It aims to test a total of 10 million people or about a tenth of the population, and run 32,000 a day, up from the current 28,000 tests daily, he said.