The private sector and businesses will conduct mass testing for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) of their employees before allowing them to safely return to work in May, as the country aims to reopen the economy after the Covid-19 quarantine.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said private-sector initiative Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits) has now generated about 1 million test kits which were procured with the support of over 100 companies.
“Testing even 300, 400, 500 of our employees out in our production centers is so important that even if you find one person there infected, it’s worth the test. Why? Because that one person will infect every one,” he said.
Concepcion underscored the need for the private sector to participate in efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
“We have to do something, we cannot just sit down and watch the show,” he said. “We have no choice especially those in the essential sector who have to supply food and pharmaceutical products, the moment our production centers stop, then the people will go hungry.”
“Even more so, you can’t leave our micro and small entrepreneurs just die because these people have struggled too long, have succeeded in their business, and now with this tremendous challenge, we have to definitely give them confidence that there is a solution,” he added.
Concepcion said nurses will do the tests in the factories with the guidance of doctors, stressing that test kits can be wasted if testings are not done properly.
“Beyond our factories, those magnanimous companies who are able to afford to test the barangays, we have a protocol for that,” he said.
Under Project ARK, antibody rapid test kits can be used for mass screening of barangays, employees, and front-liners who are symptomatic and asymptomatic.
This will identify a wider set of suspected and probable Covid-19 cases, and then isolate and swab them for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests when necessary, and manage accordingly. Such tests would need nose and throat swab samples.
Concepcion said the PCR testing capacity is around 18,000 per day.
“But with massive rapid testing and by increasing RT-PCR testing to about 30,000 tests per day, more people can be screened, more companies and industries can be deemed safe to reopen, and more data can be gathered to help determine better, safer, and more sustainable approaches to reviving the economy,” he said.
The massive rapid testing will be done in tandem with the RT-PCR testing of the government.
Project ARK Barangay Pilot Leader Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar said the barangay screening is an integral component of Project ARK, complementing company-based testing.
Hontiveros-Malvar said the barangay screening uses a dual testing strategy –the PCR and antibody rapid test kits– in partnership with the local government units (LGUs).
The screening in various barangays in the National Capital Region, she said, is aligned with the Department of Health (DOH) memoranda and guidelines on the use of the tests.
“So that you have a more holistic picture of the true level of Covid exposure in your respective cities or municipalities. All the data coming in from the test results from the barangay screening will be consolidated and analyzed by the medical panel and then submitted back to the LGUs. A copy of the report will also be given to the DOH, as well as other government agencies and government decision-makers,” she said.
She said the data will provide the LGUs, the government, and decision-makers an information or a tool to make strategic and efficient use of their resources like healthcare systems, healthcare infrastructure either isolation and quarantine facilities, and testing center capabilities.
Hontiveros-Malvar, also Senior Adviser for Agripreneurship and Mindanao Development Program of Go Negosyo, said companies that are involved in the setup will need to commit to screen their workforce regularly.
“It’s important that we need to test regularly whether it’s on barangay level or on a company level. Definitely as a result of the screening, you will also see more probable or suspected cases that will come up because of the rapid test screening and eventually these cases or people can be pushed for further isolation and PCR testing,” she added.