Amidst rising COVID-19 cases and tightening access to affordable testing, the Office of the Vice-President has launched a free mobile antigen testing program called “Swab Cab.”
Made possible under Vice President Leni Robredo’s anti-poverty program Angat Buhay, the Kaya Natin! Movement, and UBE Express, Swab Cab coordinates with local government units to be able to conduct mass surveillance testing in communities where COVID-19 transmission is at an alarming rate. The surveillance testing would also help in identifying asymptomatic cases and in isolating these cases to prevent community transmission.
“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-positive cases,” said Robredo per Rappler.
“Magpo-provide tayo ng mobile na parang bus, pupunta doon sa mga communities na grabe iyong transmission, pero may partnership with the LGU kasi iyong mag-a-identify noong mga communities [ay] iyong mga LGU mismo, pati iyong kung sino mismo iyong isa-swab,” she added.
The OVP’s Swab Cab will administer rapid antigen test kits which are known to have a faster turnaround time of just 15-20 minutes compared to the standard RT-PCR test which can take up to three days to process.
However, RT-PCR tests remain to be the standard in accurately spotting the coronavirus. Thus, when an individual turns out positive, the OVP will advise them to isolate, follow quarantine protocols, and take an RT-PCR test for confirmatory results.
The program kicked off in the pilot city of Malabon, where the mobile antigen swab center service will be stationed until Tuesday, April 6.
From their maiden trip, they were able to 34 positive cases out of the 502 tested individuals. The OVP also noted the residents’ hesitancy to undergo testing, as they might be forced to isolate, preventing them to go to work and support their families.
“Our assessment at the end of the day is that having mobile testing centers where people can have themselves tested for free will greatly help control the transmission of the virus. This is easily replicable,” the VP shared.