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By Matthew Reysio-Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer

At least 277 tri­cy­cle driv­ers in Man­daluy­ong City ap­peared to be pos­i­tive for the new coro­n­avirus dis­ease (COVID-19) af­ter un­der­go­ing rapid tests ad­min­is­tered by the city gov­ern­ment, an of­fi­cial told the In­quirer.

Ac­cord­ing to Jimmy Isidro, Mayor Carmelita “Menchie” Aba­los’ chief of staff, as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, 277 of 4,300 tri­cy­cle driv­ers who have been tested so far dis­played the an­ti­bod­ies pro­duced af­ter the body is in­fected by a virus.

Isidro said the lo­cal gov­ern­ment planned to test all of the 8,000 tri­cy­cle driv­ers in the city be­fore al­low­ing them to once again hit the streets, al­though un­der more strin­gent safety mea­sures like a one-pas­sen­ger limit. Be­cause the rapid test­ing was one of the re­quire­ments set by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment be­fore they could be al­lowed to re­sume their routes, the driv­ers who tested pos­i­tive had yet to ferry com­muters.

They are now in iso­la­tion and sched­uled to un­dergo con­fir­ma­tory swab tests, which are more re­li­able but harder to pro­cure.

Ef­fi­ciency of swab tests

Un­like rapid tests which only de­tect the pres­ence of an­ti­bod­ies, a swab test can defini­tively iden­tify COVID-19 in a pa­tient.

In a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view, Aba­los said the gov­ern­ment was puz­zled by the high num­ber of pos­i­tive cases among tri­cy­cle driv­ers in the city. Those who were tested so far came from dif­fer­ent vil­lages, mak­ing it highly un­likely that they be­long to a sin­gle clus­ter of in­fec­tions.

“You can­not trace how it was spread to them be­cause our test­ing was ran­dom,” Aba­los said. “These driv­ers are all from dif­fer­ent barangays so we can­not pin­point.”

The full report in today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer