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Project ARK partners with Metro mayors for pooled testing

Through expanded testing of Project ARK and the help of the national government and LGUs working together, we can reach an assessment of policy,” Olivarez said, on how to fight COVID-19.

MANILA, Philippines — A number of Metro Manila mayors expressed their support for the pooled swab testing strategy of Go Negosyo Project ARK during a virtual presser of the presentation of initial rapid test results in the cities of Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa, Navotas, San Mateo, Parañaque and Pasay yesterday.

Mayors Jaime Fresnedi (Muntinlupa), Cristina Diaz (San Mateo), Imelda Calixto-Rubiano (Pasay), Edwin Olivarez (Parañaque) and Menchi Abalos who was represented by councilor Charisse Abalos-Vargas (Mandaluyong) were among the key participants of the event.

“Expect our 100 percent support for Project ARK. I am interested to see what this pooled testing is all about,” said Rubiano.

“Through expanded testing of Project ARK and the help of the national government and LGUs working together, we can reach an assessment of policy,” Olivarez said, on how to fight COVID-19.

He said Parañaque and Project ARK could partner to set up a testing laboratory to provide polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for all city residents.

The Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc. (PSPI) and Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) are currently in the middle of a study that seeks to confirm the validity of pooled PCR testing. The method is expected to bring down the cost of testing and expand access to the population.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion and ARK-PCR Private Sector chief implementor Rep. Janette Garin discussed the plan to roll out pooled testing across the country which will make RT-PCR swab testing affordable, accessible and faster.

“There is a possibility that if the infections are not put under control, we can go back to ECQ. That’s the biggest concern of the business sector right now,” Concepcion said, stressing that reverting to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will destroy businesses and people trying to restart.

“Let us not quarantine Luzon-wide but move towards a more granular, localized or even barangay-level approach and give the power to our mayors because they are there and they know the problem,” he said.

“This is a health issue that’s leading to an economic disaster. If you can’t control the health problem, the economic problem will worsen,” he added, noting that teamwork between the public and private sector is what will spell the difference in saving lives and livelihood.

“Pooled testing reduces the cost of PCR testing, turnaround time is faster, no overloading of labs and [we can] take care of personnel and protect healthcare workers, especially the frontliners of LGUs,” Garin said.

Garin added that they are looking at the end of July to come up with the costing, mechanism and eventual cascading of the research results to 21 laboratories. If it receives the green light from the Department of Health, the project can be implemented by the second week of August.

More than 6,000 individuals were initially tested in the cities of Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa, Navotas, San Mateo, Parañaque, Pasay as part of a broad-based effort of Go Negosyo Project ARK to offer community-level visibility of COVID-19 infection rates.

The partial results of the rapid test in five cities suggest that negative results account for the bulk of infections and that there are trends pointing to fewer infections in the aforementioned cities.

“We very much support the Project ARK advocacy. In Mandaluyong, we believe it is really what we need,” said Vargas. “When we implemented it, we started with the more congested barangays. We saw that the people were very willing to get tested. We have to build confidence in our people. Only by doing that can we start opening up the economy again.”

“Test kits were used in five barangays in Muntinlupa. I would like to say thank you for Project ARK headed by PA Joey Concepcion. The City of Muntinlupa is adopting different ordinances and implementing measures to control and contain rising COVID-19 cases. Unfortunately, this is an experience of all LGUs, that it seems this is a second wave,” Fresnedi said.

Project ARK came right on time, Diaz said. “It enabled us in our efforts to trace, test and treat. We piloted in our barangays and at San Mateo Public Market.”

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