A strategic mass testing for the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, will be conducted beginning May 4, 2020 in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu in Cebu to pave the way for the easing of quarantine restrictions and restart of the local economy.
Project Balik Buhay (PBB), an initiative of Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas together with the three city governments and the Department of Health (DOH) regional office for Central Visayas, will allow local businesses to resume operations and jumpstart the economy by May 21 after nearly two months of quarantine due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
With the mass testing, however, an exponential rise in coronavirus-positive cases may be expected.
"When we do this, we should expect a rise in positive cases given that the virus is highly transmissible. We fear that possibility but it should not be a cause for panic. Knowing our status is a step towards a solution and is way better than fighting this disease blindly," DOH-7 regional director Jaime Bernadas said in a statement.
Employers are expected to complement the PBB by having their employees tested prior to the re-opening of their respective businesses. Employers should also put in place minimum health standards in the workplace to prevent transmission of the virus.
Under the PBB, 1 of every 10 households (or 10% of all households) per barangay in the three cities will be subjected to the rapid antibody test, which detect the presence of antibodies indicating infection.
Those found to have antibodies would be subjected to RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests, which detect the presence of the novel coronavirus.
Those found positive for the virus would be asked to move to the barangay isolation center (BIC) for isolation and monitoring.
Based on the data of each City Health Departments of the three cities, a total of 46,896 individuals will be tested.
"A total of 33 teams composed of nurses and medical technologists will be deployed to conduct sample collections at the barangay with the help of our BHWs and BHERTS. These samples will be sent to our partner laboratories to be tested using RDTs," added Bernadas.
Bernadas also reiterated the importance of staying at home while waiting for the result of the rapid test.
Testing will be conducted over 10 days. By May 20, Bernadas said there should already be data on which to base the decision to either maintain the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or relax restrictions and shift to general community quarantine (GCQ).
Based on the test results, barangays will be classified into three zones: Red Zone for those with high number of cases; Orange Zone (moderate); and Green Zone (zero).
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, and Lapu- Lapu City Mayor Junard "Ahong" Chan said their respective barangay isolation centers and Quarantine Facilities are already in place.
In Cebu City, Councilor Raymond Garcia said 19 BICs are ready to take in patients. The Cebu City Quarantine Center and the Bayanihan Field Centers are also operational.
Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino public transportation will still be limited under GCQ.
A total of 200 buses will be fielded once quarantine protocols are relaxed. (Ventures Cebu)