Eastern Visayas to start 'targeted' mass testing next week

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Health officials in Eastern Visayas said mass testing of suspected COVID-19 cases from four areas in the region will begin next week. (FILE PHOTO)

Tacloban City (CNN Philippines, April 24) — Health officials in Eastern Visayas said mass testing of suspected COVID-19 cases from four areas in the region will begin next week.

The regional health department is eyeing Catarman in Northern Samar, Calbayog City and Tarangnan in Samar and Burauen in Leyte, where there are COVID-19 patients.

Since March, six people in the region have tested positive for highly contagious disease.

Department of Health Regional Director Molon Minerva said the office has identified 138 people who will undergo mass testing using throat or oropharyngeal and nose or nasopharyngeal swabbing. This number does not yet include those listed by local governments from their contact tracing efforts.

Authorities will test suspected COVID-19 patients who are either hospitalized or at home isolation, health workers and other vulnerable groups like the elderly and those with comorbidities and pregnant women who live in areas with confirmed cases, Molon said. Village frontliners in places with confirmed COVID-19-positive patients are also included in the mass testing.

The patients' samples will be sent to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu.

However, Molon admitted that the lack of personal protective equipment remains a challenge.

Ang aming challenge sa ngayon ay ang aming provision ng personal protective equipment dahil talangang kulang kami at hindi pa dumarating 'yung supply namin. Iaasa namin ito sa ating mga local government units na siyang gagawa ng ating targeted testing,” Molon said in a virtual briefing.

[Translation: Our challenge now is provision of personel protective euqipment since supplies have not arrived yet. We will leave this up to the local government units who will conduct our targetd testing.]

She added that they also need more personnel to do the swab tests which they will try to address by doing online training using the Zoom application.

At present, there are only 38 trained personnel for the task for the entire Eastern Visayas, she said.

Of the region's six COVID-19 patients, four have been discharged from the hospital. Two remain at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, one of the DOH's COVID-19 referral hospitals.

Eastern Samar has since extended quarantine measures until May 30, though it remains to be free of the disease. Under its "Modified General Community Quarantine", residents of the province coming from Metro Manila and other areas with COVID-19 will be placed under isolation or quarantine in their respective municipalities for 14 days.