UNDER the leadership of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, conglomerates and major business organizations have expressed their support to join Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits), a private sector-led initiative that is anchored on the combined efforts of the government and businesses to make massive testing possible at the community level.
Project ARK will launch a data-driven initiative and testing protocol that will help identify persons with antibodies against the virus and possible convalescent plasma donors.
The name of the initiative is taken from the Holy Bible, wherein the ark has always served as a symbol of security and protection in difficult times. Inspired by this, Concepcion hopes that the country’s leaders will unite and offer the same sense of security to the public. This as they combat the spread of the disease, save lives, and steer the country through a tumultuous economic recession.
“How do we operate in a war-like environment? We must create that structure of defense, which can be done with selective quarantine. However, this structure will be useless if we don’t create visibility. By doing aggressive PCR testing and massive screening using rapid test kits, we can gain greater visibility,” Concepcion states.
Project ARK plans to utilize the antibody rapid test kit as an added diagnostic tool to the Department of Health's gold standard, the PCR testing. These tests can detect the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies, revealing who had the virus, who never had it, and who have the antibodies after recovering from the disease. This will be part of the test protocol of Project ARK that combines the use of ARKs and PCR testing for massive screening in the private sector and at the community level.
The private sector is set to conduct a massive screening of their respective company employees soon. Companies may also optto screen the residents of nearby barangays on a purely voluntary basis. The objective of the mass screening is to determine the number of people who might have had coronavirus in the past and have the immunity already against the virus.
When implemented at the community level, these tests and the data generated by them can provide much needed guidance for businesses to develop effective internal strategies, and to help identify those who are fit to return to work. With massive rapid testing, public confidence can be reinstated.
To ensure efficiency and effectiveness, Concepcion recommends that the government set up a rapid-PCR testing system as well at the airport where inbound travelers (returning OFWs and seafarers, business visitors, et al) shall be subject to testing upon arrival. This will speed up the turnaround time for results, andcan quickly determine if a person is infected or not.
In addition to implementing a massive screening using ARKs and PCR tests, Concepcion recommends an immediate shift from a Luzon lockdown to selective quarantine. He also suggests that both manufacturing and construction resume operations. This will ensure the continued production of high-demand supplies, and allow more people to go back to work, especially in construction.
Concepcion insists that mass gatherings be kept limited. By the first week of May, malls may start opening gradually. All employees and mall-goers will not be allowed to enter malls without face masks or face shields. Reduced public transport both in Metro Manila and the provincial areas should be allowed as well as this will accommodate the essential workers travelling to and from their homes. Government-operated transportation such as the MRT and LRT are recommended to resume operations.
“We are in a modern-day war, and all our sacrifices and efforts – by the public, the private sector, the government – display our deep love for country. This is ‘bayanihan’ in action. And together, I hope we all win and heal as one.”