Davao plans ‘aggressive’ virus tests in high-risk barangays

The sign says it all as barangay officials prohibit entry of non-residents in Barangay Leon Garcia, one of the identified high-risk areas in Davao City due to rising cases of COVID-19 coming from the coastal village. Photo taken 23 June 2020. Mindanews photo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 November) – “Aggressive community testing” may start in the city’s high-risk barangays on Dec. 1 in a bid to control the transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to Dr. Ashley Lopez, focal person for COVID-19 of the Department of Health in the city.

Lopez said in a text message on Friday that the local government was finalizing details of the community testing, but added health authorities target to test all close contacts of the confirmed cases.

“We will base our target on the contact-tracing… we’re still determining areas with cases, prioritizing high-risk barangays in the last 14 days,” he said.

In a separate interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5), Lopez said the close contacts don’t need to go to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) to get tested as the local government will establish various testing sites in identified communities.

He added the implementation will be done in cooperation with the barangays.

He said barangay gymnasiums or other areas that can accommodate large number of people can be converted into community testing centers.

He clarified that not all residents of a high-risk barangay will be swabbed but only those who had direct contact with a confirmed case.

He said testing will be based on the “line list,” which contains the names of the first generation (F1) or close contacts of confirmed cases.

Lopez added they will accommodate even individuals who would volunteer for the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

During the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) team meeting in the city last Nov. 18, Dr. Alethea De Guzman of the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau said most of the cases during the first half of November came from 34 areas.

These are Buhangin Poblacion, Barangay 19-B, Talomo Poblacion, Agdao, Bucana, Toril Poblacion, Matina Crossing, Ma-a, Matina Aplaya, Cabantian, Catalunan Grande, Sasa, Panacan, Barangay 21-C, Pampanga, Daliao, Calinan Poblacion, Barangay 5-A, Bago Aplaya, Barangay 27-C, Centro (San Juan), Tugbok Poblacion, Leon Garcia Sr., Barangay 32-D, Barangay 9-A, Baliok, Barangay 20-B, Tibungco, Bunawan Poblacion, Lizada, Tigatto, Barangay 28-C, Barangay 7-A and Indangan.

Cases from these areas contributed 80 percent of the total COVID-19 cases from the 96 barangays with reported cases in the first half of November. The city comprises 182 barangays.

“We get our line list based on the patients who test positive, including their direct contacts. In this way, we will swab everyone and if they test negative, they will undergo home quarantine for 14 days. If they test positive, we will pick them up and will bring them to our facilities after assessment coming from our doctors,” Lopez said.

He said specimens will be handled by the SPMC, which can process 2,500 to 3,000 tests a day.

“The result will not be obtained in an hour. We need at least two days to get the result because the only testing center to process is SPMC, but as promised, they can test a maximum of 2,500 to 3,000 tests per day. If we can do that, hopefully the result of the swab will come out sooner,” he added.

He added suspects will be put on home quarantine pending results of their swab tests, but assured their homes will be strictly monitored to avoid community transmission.

“But as much as possible, most especially if they show symptoms, such as cough, fever, loss of appetite, loss of taste… if they are symptomatic, we need to get them and isolate them in our facilities like TTMF (temporary treatment and monitoring facilities),” he said.

As of Nov. 26, Davao City reported a total of 6,113 cases, Davao de Oro 447, Davao del Norte 982, Davao del Sur 662, Davao Occidental 116 and Davao Oriental 424.

The entire region has 2,564 active cases, 5,844 recoveries and 336 deaths.

Out of the 6,113 cases in Davao City, 2,049 are active, 3,785 have recovered, and 279 died. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)