Vico Sotto: Pasig 'mass screens' barangay with highest coronavirus ratio

The Pasig City government carried out "mass screening" in a barangay that had the highest ratio of coronavirus cases compared to its population, Mayor Vico Sotto said on Wednesday, May 27.

Using rapid antibody test kits from the private-led Project ARK initiative, the local government tested 892 residents of Barangay Sagad, or 10% of its population.

As of May 23, Barangay Sagad had a total of 23 confirmed coronavirus cases. Although it is one of Pasig's smaller barangays, Sagad has a relatively high number of coronavirus patients.

Of the 892 Sagad residents screened, 16 were reactive to the antibody test, and were then subjected to the more conclusive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or swab test.

Of the 16 residents who took the confirmatory test, 4 turned out positive for COVID-19.

Sotto said Project ARK gave the city a total of 2,500 rapid antibody test kits. Minus the 892 used in Sagad, the remaining kits were to be distributed to Pasig's other barangays, along with the city government's own supply of the same test kits.

These kits will be used to test frontliners, Sotto added.

Widespread testing

On Wednesday, Pasig City government employees went through rapid testing for the coronavirus as they prepare to resume full operations on June 1. Metro Manila mayors, including Sotto, had recommended a transition from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to the less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) after May 31.

The national government has yet to decide on the mayors' recommendation, although an announcement from Malacañang is imminent.

In late April, Sotto said Pasig was running more or less 350 coronavirus tests every day with the help of the private hospital The Medical City. Of that number, 50 were RT-PCR tests.

"[The 'mass screening' in Barangay Sagad] is just one of our testing initiatives in Pasig," Sotto tweeted on Wednesday.

Project ARK (antibody rapid test kits) pushes for widespread coronavirus testing using the faster and cheaper rapid kits. The initiative is the brainchild of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, also the founder of the advocacy group Go Negosyo.

Netizens, advocacy groups, and even some officials have been calling for "mass testing" for COVID-19, but the national government has shunned the term. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said last week that testing the entire population for the virus is not feasible.

Mass testing, in that sense, is up to the private sector, Roque said.

However, advocates for mass testing said all it means is widespread testing among the populace in order to get a broader and more current picture of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Officials and experts have also debated on the value of rapid antibody test kits because they are not conclusive and require a confirmatory RT-PCR test to ascertain a positive case.

What the Pasig local government did in Barangay Sagad was use the rapid antibody test to narrow down possible coronavirus cases so that only 16, not 892, people had to be swab-tested for the virus.

As of May 23, Pasig had a total of 524 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 68 deaths and 200 recoveries.

The Philippines, as of Wednesday, May 27, has recorded a total of 15,049 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 904 deaths and 3,506 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.

image