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Malabon shows model to address virus threat 

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Cities in Metro Manila face more challenges as the coronavirus pandemic has not only affected the lives of citizens, it also drastically impacted businesses and livelihoods. 

As the elusive vaccine is still far from approval, LGUs such as Malabon are doing their best amid the current situation, balancing both the safety of people with the safe reopening of businesses.

One of the ways Malabon is doing it is by implementing an effective system for contact tracing and presiding over a free mega swab testing done at the city’s sports stadium. 

To “Detect, Isolate, Trace, and Treat” patients is the only way the city can have a semblance of normalcy and allow the local economy to function amid the new normal, Malabon Mayor Lenlen Oreta said.

The free mega swab testing started last August 8 at the Oreta Sports Center in coordination with the City’s Health Department, Ospital ng Malabon, Philippine National Red Cross, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 (IATF). 

From an initial RT PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing of 600 a day, succeeding tests showed significant increase of target capacity to 1,000 a day. As of August 25, a total of almost 20,000 Malabonians were already tested.

Malabon implements its testing every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while contact tracing by the barangay health emergency response team (BHERTs) is done during Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

In addition to the free testing, participants are also given food packs so they will not need to go out of their homes frequently until their results are released.

“We are doing this testing to make sure that any COVID-infected individual wouldn’t infect his or her family, and those in their community. This is being proactive, and this would help flatten the curve of infection in the long run,” said Oreta.

Those who are tested, the mayor says, are required to isolate themselves at their homes. Those proven to be infected based on the swab testing are required to go to one of Malabon’s three isolation centers, where they would be “treated” – given regular nutritious food and vitamins, and provided a clean and safe environment where they could rest and recover.

The number of positive cases is now taking up most of the rooms in the quarantine facilities, but Oreta said they are planning to add 200 to 300 more beds.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is also helping to create an isolation center that is bigger, which can soon accommodate 88 beds.

To avail of the free COVID-19 testing, Malabonians who feel they have symptoms need to schedule a visit with their barangay health centers first. The priority for testing are those who had close contact with a COVID-positive patient. 

The Malabon local government is in the process of purchasing serology machines that would allow them to see immediate results from tests.

As Covid cases continues to rise all over the metro, Malabon is intensifying its information campaign called “#MaskSafeSaMalabon” to remind Malabonians of the “3Ps” – Paghugas ng Kamay, Pagsuot ng Face Mask/ Face Shield, and Physical Distancing. 

Though there are challenges along the way, majority of the citizens are following health protocols and observing curfew, Oreta noted. 

Although there are no barangays on lockdown, people are still expected to show IDs whenever they leave their houses as proof that they are going to work or on an important errand.

“We should work hand-in-hand and do our part in keeping the virus from spreading. The local government and medical frontliners alone wouldn’t be able to eliminate the problem if the rest of the population is not following the health protocols,” the mayor said.

“We must live and act ‘like we have the virus’ so we would be responsible and conscious of others. It is only by cooperation that we would see the COVID infections go down,” Oreta added. “The earlier the infections go down, the earlier it is for us to bring back to normal our lives, livelihood, and the local economy.”

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