Makati to pilot pooled RT-PCR testing for coronavirus in PH

Mara Cepeda

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Makati to pilot pooled RT-PCR testing for coronavirus in PH

Members of the Northern Police District undergo swab testing for possible COVID-19 infection at the People's Park in Caloocan City on May 6, 2020. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Ben Nabong/Rappler

(UPDATED) Mayor Abby Binay says they will be prioritizing market vendors and PUV drivers for the pooled testing project

The Makati City government will pioneer the country’s pooled testing initiative using the reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for the coronavirus on August 15.

Mayor Abby Binay said in a statement on Thursday, August 6, that the city government has been chosen as the pilot site for the pooled testing program developed by Project ARK of PLDT Enterprise and GoNegosyo.

Binay signed a memorandum of agreement on Wednesday, August 5, with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, and the BDO Foundation, which is shouldering the P5-million cost of the pooled testing project equally with the Makati City government. 

The country’s premiere business district was initially targeting to test some 10,000 residents, most of whom were market vendors and public utility vehicle drivers. 

“I am honored that Makati City is taking the lead in this groundbreaking initiative. COVID-19 is bigger than all of us. As mayor, I will gladly take on additional responsibility if it would lead to better testing, isolation, and treatment for patients infected with the coronavirus,” said Binay.

Philippine testing czar Vince Dizon already recommended subjecting all 14 million residents in Metro Manila to pooled testing as a more cost-effective strategy of quelling the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

How will the pooled testing work?

Binay said the city government would select groups of people or communities to be swabbed, where their specimens would be pooled together and tested using one test kit.

If the RT-PCR test result of one group turns out to be positive for COVID-19, then all the individuals in that group will have to be tested individually. 

But if the group’s initial swab test comes back negative, then there is no need to test each of the people in the group anymore. 

City health personnel would be trained on the proper swabbing and sample pooling methods.

Binay said the pooled testing project would run for a month. At the end of the program, the city government would use their findings to come up with a pooled testing protocol, which can then be shared to other cities and institutions. 

“Makati has the means, resources, and more importantly the commitment to go beyond simply treating persons with coronavirus. We want to help improve processes and lighten the load of our overburdened healthcare workers, Binay said. 

“We may not find a cure or a vaccine in the very near future, but we can improve how communities handle testing and isolation. I believe this is a very important first step,” she added. 

To date, the country has already tallied 115,980 cases of COVID-19

President Rodrigo Duterte already reverted Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan to modified enhanced community quarantine from August 4 to 18 after medical professionals warned him that the country was on the brink of losing its battle against the pandemic. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.