PARAÑAQUE CITY, September 4, 2020 – This city will soon have its own molecular laboratory, which could process at least a thousand COVID-19 test samples a day, according to Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez.

“Gusto ko pong ipalaam sa ating CODE (Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic) [Team], sa pangunguna po ni [National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer] Sec. [Carlito G.] Galvez [Jr.] na ang atin pong siyudad ay inumpisahan na po na magtayo ng sariling molecular laboratory at ‘yan po ay tinatarget po, nagsubmit na po kami sa Department of Health ng application po doon,” Olivarez said during the visit of Galvez to this city on Thursday.

“Nagko-coordinate po kami sa inyo po, at tinatarget po natin itong molecular laboratory na ito ay ma-operate sana before end of September or early October para po may sarili na pong molecular laboratory ang lungsod ng Parañaque,” he added.

Parañaque City Health Officer Dr. Olga Virtusio said the city will purchase at least four automated reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines which are capable of conducting more than 1,000 tests per day.

“The new molecular laboratory will increase our capacity for testing,” she said, pointing out that testing will be the key in separating infected individuals from their communities, and isolating them in order to curb the spread the disease.

Virtusio said the city will be “pulling out slowly” the rapid testing testing kits they have in their inventory. The RT-PCR is considered to be the gold standard in COVID-19 testing because it can accurately detect the virus compared to the rapid test, which can only detect antibodies.

The encouraging news, he said, is that least 81.3% of the 4,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city have recovered.

“Our current active [number of COVID19] cases is 767, and we are proud to say that we have very low deaths in the city of about 2.7%. With the combined efforts of both the barangay and health frontliners, we have somehow delayed the doubling time of cases in the city [for the past] 37 days,” Virtusio said.


Effective localization of NAP

According to Olivarez, the high recovery rate and the low mortality rate of COVID-19 cases in the city is the result of the local government’s effective localization of the National Action Plan Against COVD-19.

“’Yun pong mga strategy na pinapatupad po ng ating lungsod ng Parañaque ay base doon po National Action Plan, doon po sa binaba ng ating National Task Force sa pangunguna po ng ating chief implementer na si Sec. Galvez,” he said.

In the area of prevention, Olivarez said the city government passed an ordinance requiring the strict implementation of minimum health standards such as the wearing of face masks and face shields, observing physical distancing, and avoiding mass gatherings.

These guidelines, he said, are being enforced by barangay officials and Philippine National Police personnel.

“Pati city health office ay nag-iinspect. Sinisugrado na lahat ng business establishments will comply with the protocol guidelines ng ating pong Department of Health,” he added.

Olivarez said that due to the city’s expanded testing capability, it can now conduct at least 60,000 tests daily.

He said the key to further raising this capacity is to widen the net to track infected individuals through the city’s 200 contact tracing teams.

“Meron pong first layer and second layer na-itinitrace dun po sa lahat ng ating mga positive [patients] at ‘yung ating mga probable at suspect dito po sa ating lungsod ng Parañaque,” Olivarez explained.

The mayor said the city’s quarantine facilities have at least 600 beds to ensure that COVID-19 patients are accommodated and given immediate medical attention.

“Nadagdagan pa ho sa tulong ng ating national government yung katatapos lang na blessing inauguration na mga container van dito po sa ground ng Paranaque City College. At magagamit na rin po natin ‘yung mga susunod container van located sa A1 and that will be [an] additional 150 beds para po sa ating isolation facilities,” he said.

Olivarez expects the city’s quarantine capacity to increase with the opening of the Mega Quarantine facility at the Bagong Nayon Pilipino which has about 600 beds. The facility was completed through a partnership between the government and businessman Enrique Razon.

He said the city has two treatment facilities, which has enabled the city to effectively manage COVID-19 patients.

Olivarez, however, said there is a need to balance the bed capacity of these hospitals to ensure that non-COVID-19 patients will also receive quality medical attention.

For its the reintegration program, Olivarez emphasized that there is a need to give equal attention to the mental well-being of patients and those who have already recovered from the disease.

“Importante yung ating mental health. Kaya inaasikaso po ng ating City Health Office,” he said.


Unity of efforts

For his part, Chief Implementer and Presidential Peace Adviser Secreatry Galvez said the effective localization of the National Action Plan will provide LGUs the necessary tools to respond to concerns arising from the health crisis.

“We were able to dance with the virus basta ‘yung capacity natin maayos,” he said, referring to the “Hammer and Dance theory” which is at the heart of the National Action Plan Phase 2.

Galvez explained the “hammer” pertains to the strategy of curbing the spread of the virus which includes the strict implementation of community quarantine measures in selected areas.

The “dance” component, on the other hand, aims to allow the economy to open, and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s economy through the efficient management of cases and reducing death to the minimum.

Galvez underscored the need for local government units – from the municipal and city, down to the barangay level – to unite and work together in order to contain the disease.

“The unity of effort from the mayors and the barangay captains should be there so that they can impose minimum health standards,” he said.

Galvez noted that the city of Parañaque has its own share of challenges mainly because of its big population.

“But through the leadership and collective efforts from the barangay officials, you were able to manage the cases in the city,” he said.

Galvez was accompanied by Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Isidro Purisima, and officials of the DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government. ###