Mass testing needed to track down asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers


Hearing on National Power Transmission Grid

With the national government set to replicate Valenzuela City’s inclusion of Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) in mass testing activities, Senator Win Gatchalian said local government units (LGUs) will be better equipped in tracking down asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as this is crucial in containing the virus.

Asymptomatic carriers are those categorized as Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) in the old classification of COVID-19 cases.

They do not exhibit symptoms but have travel history to areas with issued travel restrictions and are exposed to COVID-19 patients.

PUMs are no longer included in the new classification of COVID-19 cases.

Gatchalian, however, cited their mass testing experience in Valenzuela City revealed that at least seven PUMs have turned out positive for the virus.

Gatchalian said since the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and LGUs are already in charge of contact tracing, the testing of PUMs will determine their next steps, especially in isolating and treating patients. Contact tracing was previously assigned to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

“It is important to track down the patients with no symptoms because they are causing the continuous spread of the virus,” said Gatchalian.

He said this can be done if the PUMs will be included in the mass testing.

In the next coming days, he cited he need to see a clearer picture to determine the next measures to curb COVID-19.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Department of Health (DOH) should “accelerate massive rapid testing” in order to cover a “considerable number among our population, thus getting a more accurate infection rate.”

To do this, he said the DOH could deputize private health practitioners and health workers “under the auspices of a public-private collaboration wherein the business sector can help by subsidizing or spending for the deployment of those health personnel.”

“As it is, DOH is doing a too controlled and centralized and testing which they can’t undertake on a massive scale anyway for reasons known only to them,” Lacson said.

“What I see here is that the country’s testing capability is improving. This means more hospitals can conduct testing,” said Gatchalian.

He cited the importance of testing. “With testing, we can determine who is positive for the virus, we would quarantine the patient and we no longer have to place the entire city, or the whole Metro Manila under quarantine.

In its latest testing guidelines, the DOH gives priorities to patients and healthcare workers with mild or severe symptoms, have relevant history of travel and contact, and are considered vulnerable—60 years or older, immunocompromised, and those with illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes.

Expanded testing capacities, however, prioritize patients and healthcare workers with mild symptoms and relevant history of travel and contact.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced the issuance of Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution No. 25, which “adopts a national government enabled, local government unit-led, and people-centered response to the COVID-19 health event.” In the same presser, the Cabinet Secretary said that Valenzuela did the right thing in testing PUMs and the national government will do the same thing.

The resolution also mentioned the approval of DOH guidelines on the use of rapid antibody test kits.

Rapid testing reveals the presence of antibodies after a patient displays symptoms.

These guidelines were introduced on Monday, April 20./Stacy Ang


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