Vice President Leni Robredo said her team would revise their approach in helping communities reduce the coronavirus transmission following recommendations from health workers online.
On Saturday, Robredo announced an initiative called “SWAB CAB,” a free mobile testing program for communities with high rates COVID-19 transmission.
“We’re launching SWAB CAB, a mobile testing program which will do mass surveillance testing in communities where transmission is very high,” she said.
Her office partnered with the local government of Malabon City, the pilot area, Ube Express and Kaya Natin Movement.
We’re launching SWAB CAB, a mobile testing program which will do mass surveillance testing in communities where transmission is very high. Pilot area is Malabon. Thank you to LGU Malabon, Ube Express and Kaya Natin Movement for the partnership. pic.twitter.com/n76zd3mxw7
— Leni Robredo (@lenirobredo) March 27, 2021
The project seeks to provide aid to the COVID-19 testing capacity the of local government units.
The testing program will start on March 30 and April 6.
“Bilang suporta sa COVID-19 testing capacity ng mga LGU, ang OVP kasama ang private partners, ay maglulunsad ng mobile antigen swab test service para sa mga komunidad na may mataas na transmission at infection rates,” it said.
Robredo assured the public that their test kits had been approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration.
Those who will test positive for COVID-19 will also be immediately quarantined and be subjected to take the RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test.
Moreover, financing for this program are privately-donated for now. The vice president said that her office is also prepared to allocate more antigen test if needed.
The Office of the Vice President held a ceremony to kick off SWAB CAB in Malabon City on March 29, according to Robredo’s latest social media posts.
Listening to recommendations
Robredo initially expressed hope that this antigen test will help prevent asymptomatic individuals from transmitting the virus.
“Existing RT-PCR tests usually are for those with symptoms or have been contact traced. We will do antigen testing to target those without symptoms and no known exposure to COVID-19 positive cases,” she said.
However, some doctors responded to her online and corrected her that the antigen test is only applicable for those with symptoms.
Dermatologist Winlove Mojica with the Twitter handle @theskinsensei pointed this out under Robredo’s announcement.
“Ma’am, wag po gamitin sa asymptomatic ang antigen test. False sense of security dahil baka maraming mag false negative. Para sa surge ngayon, pwede po siyang gamitin sa may symptoms para ma complement ang pcr kasi mas matagal lumabas ang results ng PCR,” he wrote.
The doctor also quote-retweeted the same post and sought help on how to reach the OVP.
“Somebody please help us reach the office of the VP. Hindi po pang asymptomatic ang antigen rest. Mas ok siya gamitin kung may symptoms,” he said.
Robredo eventually replied to him and said: “I messaged you, Doc. (Smile emoji) Thank you.”
In an update to her initial announcement, she thanked those who made recommendations to make SWAB CAB more effective.
“After our announcement last night, some doctors reached out with important suggestions to make our Swab Cab initiative more effective. Thanks to well-meaning experts for the recommendations. We’re meeting with them, and will update once we’ve incorporated their suggestions,” Robredo said.
Health professionals had previously advised the public against the use of antigen or antibody tests to detect COVID-19.
This procedure, however, can be effective for contact tracing purposes.
Under the recommendation in 2020, the Health Technological Assessment Council stated that:
“Rapid antigen tests, like other diagnostic tests, are used to initiate contact tracing, epidemiological surveillance, and clinical management.”