Project ARK mass rapid testing nears 1 million kits

MANILA, Philippines, April 28 ------ Private sector-led initiative Project Antibody Rapid Test Kits (ARK) has generated close to one million kits to be used to screen employees before being allowed to return to work, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said yesterday. “We are getting more and more business owners to support the initiative. So far, we have a total of 805,868 rapid testing kits from the private sector, and expect to close one million by the end of this week,” Concepcion said. He said the test kits were procured through the support of more than 100 companies. The testing kits are expected to arrive by the middle of May. Under Project ARK, participating companies would be testing their employees for COVID-19. The project will use the antibody rapid test kit, in addition to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based testing. While the antibody test kit uses blood samples, the PCR-based test kit would need nose and throat swab samples. Apart from testing their employees, participating companies of Project ARK can also sponsor the conduct of testing in barangays near their offices. Earlier, President Duterte approved the immediate procurement of two million rapid tests kits for public use. “We believe that the key to reopening our economy is to test, test, test. Why are we doing this massive screening? Currently, the PCR testing capacity is around 18,000 per day, and it provides us the safeguards in partially reopening our economy after the lockdown. But with massive rapid testing and by increasing RT (Reverse Transcription) - PCR testing to about 30,000 tests per day, more people can be screened, more companies and industries can be deemed safe to reopen, and more data can be gathered to help determine better, safer and more sustainable approaches to reviving the economy,” he said. Mass screening is being pushed as part of a strategy that would allow the reopening of the economy and to revive public confidence as the lockdown intended to manage the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, has disrupted business activity. As the massive rapid testing would be conducted with the RT-PCR testing of the government, Project ARK is expected to augment the capacity of seven hospitals to implement RT-PCR testing. This, in turn, would boost 7,000 additional PCR testing capacity per day. Even as Project ARK has already generated close to one million rapid test kits, Concepcion said he continues to ask for more support from religious groups, local government units and different chambers for the initiative. Areas considered high-risk for COVID-19 such as the National Capital Region, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Albay, Catanduanes, Aklan and Capiz, will remain under enhanced community quarantine until May 15. Provinces that have been under enhanced community quarantine but still up for review include Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Antique, Iloilo, Cebu including Cebu City, Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro as well as Davao City. Areas classified as moderate to low risk, meanwhile, would be under general community quarantine starting May 1. Source: