Soldiers to help run ‘mega swabbing center’ in Taguig

JC Gotinga
Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will provide non-medical support to the national government's COVID-19 testing center at Enderun Colleges in Bonifacio Global City

SWAB CENTER. Cabinet officials inspect the government's 'mega swabbing center' at Enderun Colleges in Taguig City on May 6, 2020. Photo from the Department of National Defense

MANILA, Philippines – More soldiers are heading to the front lines of the battle against the novel coronavirus, this time as non-medical support staff at one of the government’s “mega swabbing centers.”

On Wednesday, May 6, the government opened a swab test center at Enderun Colleges in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. It is one of 4 “mega swabbing centers” to be set up in the Greater Manila Area to increase the country’s capability to test people for COVID-19.

The testing center at Enderun will be managed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana after inspecting the facility with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, coronavirus policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, and testing chief Vince Dizon.

An initial contingent of 64 soldiers will work as encoders and bar coders of samples to be taken by medical technologists at the facility. Lorenzana said more soldiers will join them soon. All military personnel drafted for the testing effort will be trained beforehand.

With the country’s healthcare industry stretched thin, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has called on all agencies to lend their workforce to efforts to care for patients and fight the pandemic, the defense chief added.

“Swab testing” is the shorthand for the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for the coronavirus, the so-called “gold standard” in terms of reliability. DNA samples of suspected patients are taken through a nasal swab.

The swabbing center at Enderun is expected to be able to run 1,000 to 1,500 RT-PCR tests per day, Duque said.

The government aims to be able to do 30,000 tests for the coronavirus by May 30, as it opens more testing centers and laboratories in different parts of the country. It earlier failed to reach its target of 8,000 tests daily by April 30.

The Greater Manila Area has one of the highest concentrations of COVID-19 cases in the country, which is why the government prioritized setting up “mega swabbing centers” in it, Dizon said in a virtual briefing on Tuesday, May 5.

The other “mega swabbing centers” are at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, and the Palacio de Manila in Malate, which opened on Tuesday.

The AFP has been enforcing the enhanced community quarantine or lockdown in parts of the country – in a “support role” to the Philippine National Police.

Besides this, it has lent its trucks, ships, and planes to transport medical equipment, supplies, and people amid the lockdown.

The military is also in charge of national quarantine facilities at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila and at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. The AFP Medical Corps of doctors and nurses are deployed to these facilities.

The Philippines is racing to contain the coronavirus outbreak as its cities, municipalities, and provinces begin easing quarantine restrictions later this month. Metro Manila is set to go on general community quarantine on May 15, unless the government decides to extend the enhanced version of the lockdown.

As of Wednesday, the country has recorded 10,004 COVID-19 cases, with 658 deaths and 1,506 recoveries. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.