GenSan medical community urges aggressive COVID-19 testing, contract tracing amid surge

A physician gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital in General Santos City. MindaNews file photo by ROMMEL REBOLLIDO

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 22 September) – The medical community here urged on Wednesday a more aggressive testing and contract tracing to capture all probable and suspected coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the communities.

Dr. Fidel Peñamante, president of the Philippine Medical Association chapter here, issued the call as the city recorded on Tuesday its highest daily increase of new COVID-19 cases since last year at 191.

He said that a massive testing and contact tracing should be done in the barangays as “primary defense” amid the ongoing surge.

“We should bring the battleground to the communities and encourage those who have minimal to mild symptoms to get tested and submit themselves to proper isolation and treatment,” Peñamante told reporters.

He said the city government should expand its free reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for workers and other concerned sectors.

Peñamante, who previously served as head of the city health office, said many residents are hesitant to get tested for COVID-19 due to the prohibitive costs.

The average RT-PCR testing rate in public facilities here is currently at P3,800 and P4,500 to PHP5,000 in private hospitals and laboratories, he said.

“This should be offered for free by the local government. This way, we can detect and isolate more infected individuals, and prevent them from transmitting the disease,” he said.

City officials are not immediately available for comment but Mayor Ronnel Rivera earlier said the local government has been continually expanding its testing activities in the area’s 26 barangays.

The city is currently under general community quarantine and has adopted additional restrictions, among them the Sunday lockdown, while keeping most economic activities unhampered.

Aside from the testing and contact tracing, it has expanded the COVID-19 vaccination to eligible residents.

As of Tuesday night, the active COVID-19 cases in the city was at 986, the highest since March last year, and mostly traced to exposure to confirmed infections.

The confirmed cases in the city reached a total of 12,209, the second-highest in Region 12 (Soccsksargen), with 414 related deaths and 10,809 recoveries.

As of Sept. 20, Peñamante said 95 percent of the beds in the COVID-19 wings of the seven referral hospitals in the city were already occupied and the intensive care units (ICU) are fully occupied.

A report from the Department of Health said the city has 313 allotted beds for COVID-19 cases, comprising 193 isolation beds, 83 ward beds and 37 ICU beds. It has a total of 28 mechanical ventilators.(MindaNews with a report from Richelyn Gubalani)