GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Health personnel in Sarangani have detected about 700 asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) since its expanded risk-based targeted testing in parts of the province began late April.
Dr. Arvin Alejandro, Sarangani health officer, said in a radio interview on Thursday afternoon they were able to capture and immediately isolate the infected patients, preventing a potential massive spread of the disease in local communities.
Alejandro said the testing activities are ongoing in five of its seven municipalities, covering high activity areas and places frequented by people.
“If we were not able to catch these asymptomatic cases, they could have been silent massive spreaders and our infections could have quadrupled by now,” he said.
The targeted testing, which was ordered by Sarangani Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon, began in Kiamba and Maitum towns on April 26.
The other five towns – Alabel, Maasim, Glan, Malungon, and Malapatan – have begun to implement community-based testing.
Alejandro said they identified the top 10 populated barangays in every municipality and conducted testing among workers in business establishments, local government offices and facilities, and individuals in various public convergence areas.
Risk-based targeted testing was among the recommendations of the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau but most local government units have not implemented it, he said.
He said in Kiamba, the first locality that completed the targeted testing, they captured about 200 positive cases.
Some of the cases involved fishermen with activities at the fish port complex here and “epidemiologically linked” to confirmed infections.
Alejandro said they use three brands of rapid antigen test kits for the initial screening and subject those who turn out positive to confirmatory reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
He said 99 percent of the individuals who tested positive in rapid antigen came out with the same results in the RT-PCR test.
Alejandro said since they started the expanded testing, the confirmed infections in the province have almost doubled.
“We still anticipate a spike in cases in the coming days, especially in areas that have just started to roll out their testing activities,” he said, adding they, however, expect the number of infections to eventually drop as they continue to track and isolate the positive cases in the communities.
Based on the Department of Health 12 (Soccsksargen) Covid-19 tracker, as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Sarangani had 289 active cases, the lowest in the region.
The confirmed cases in the province since last year have reached 1,585, with 25 related deaths, both the lowest in the region. It posted total recoveries of 1,271. (PNA)