Valenzuela City ramps up COVID-19 community testing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15) — Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian on Wednesday said more residents and frontliners suspected of having COVID-19 can undergo testing in the next days after the city inked a new partnership with a testing laboratory.

The city can now process up to 115 COVID-19 samples daily from suspected and probable cases through the help of The Medical City and Detoxicare Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. The Pasig hospital can process 25 to 40 samples daily, while the accredited laboratory can examine 90 samples daily in the next two weeks. The two medical facilities will use reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. Test results are expected two days after the procedure.

Valenzuela was one of the first cities to start localized testing. It has tested around 150 people since April 11. From the first batch of testing over the weekend, two turned out positive, while 18 people tested negative.

Gatchalian expects the backlog of tests for around 200 persons to be cleared by this weekend. Once that is done, the city will start testing medical frontliners in public and private hospitals, security frontliners, OFWs, and dialysis patients.

"The beauty of this is, rather than just isolating people by mere suspect, we’re actually going to test everybody, pin down who will be positive, isolate that person or quarantine that person, or give them the necessary medical intervention," he told CNN Philippines.

The mayor explained that when a resident tests positive for coronavirus disease, the entire household of the patient will be "barricaded" and placed under lockdown. Healthcare workers and police officers will ensure they strictly follow quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their community. He admitted this will require more human resources as the city expands its testing capacity.

"What we’re going to do now is isolate only those that are positive, making sure that their houses are put in lockdown or we can move some of them to our central isolation unit," Gatchalian said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the Valenzuela mayor's brother, emphasized the importance of mass testing in lifting the Luzon lockdown, which is slated to end on April 30. But he said local governments are still waiting for the Department of Health's guidelines on how they will go about the mass testing.

"Kung mahahanap natin itong mga COVID positive, pwede na nating dahan-dahang buksan ang ekonomiya ng ating bansa or ekonomiya ng ating lokal na pamahalaan," said the senator, who was also a former mayor and congressman of Valenzuela.

[Translation: If we can trace the positive cases, we can slowly work towards opening the economy of the country or the economy of the local government.]

There are 46 confirmed cases in Valenzuela, with four deaths and three recoveries.

CNN Philippines correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.