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Since day one, I have advocated for mass, targeted testing as a way to guide our containment efforts and quarantine strategies. What we know about the virus is changing every day. Thus, it is imperative that we continue to explore new ways to detect the virus so that we can safely reopen the economy even further.
This month, we rolled out pooled RT-PCR testing in Makati, which analyzes the swab samples of five individuals in one RT-PCR test kit. However, we’re not stopping there and we’re not closing the doors to other discoveries made in other countries.
Scientists in Israel are continuously experimenting on how to refine the detection process when it comes to coronavirus through innovative technologies. One notable example is the saliva testing method – introduced by AI Innobio and Newsight through Glenn Yu, CEO of Seaoil Philippines – and breath testing, a strategy developed by an Israel-based company, BioSafety Technologies Ltd (a subsidiary of TeraGroup).
The first method, saliva testing, can be particularly useful for border control and can be utilized in screenings of individuals at airports, ports, and terminals. This is something we can adopt in the country, especially since a lot of our MSMEs operate in tourism and retail, which have been badly hit by the pandemic. Tourism is one of the largest sectors in our country that contributes significantly to our GDP.
In a meeting with public and private sector leaders, we discovered that the minimally invasive saliva test eliminates the need for swabbing and lab processing. Using SpectraLIT technology, the test entails people to simply gargle 10 milliliters of a special mouthwash which is then spit it out into a tube. This simpler and minimally invasive method uses AI technology from Israel and has the potential to cut turnaround time to less than a minute, lowers the cost of testing, produces a high-reliability percentage, and reduces the demand for scarce testing resources.
Although the company is still in the process of securing the necessary regulatory clearance, the method offers great implications.
Recently, we met with Eli Assoolin – the man behind the company who developed the saliva COVID-19 test under Newsight, together with Sheba Medical Center – after he made headlines and signed a deal with European airports. The partnership aims to pilot saliva COVID-19 testing, which some believe will become the ‘de facto solution for air travel.’
Aside from saliva testing, another exciting innovation is breath testing, which has been backed by the Israeli Ministries of Health and Defense. BioSafety Technologies Ltd, a subsidiary of TeraGroup in Israel, has presented a new COVID-19 detection method that takes only one minute and which can potentially enhance our country’s testing arsenal. The breath test promises to deliver a fast clearance solution in determining whether a person is negative for COVID-19. It can detect asymptomatic individuals as early as one to two days after being infected. The user-friendly process does not require medically trained personnel and offers optimal performance per test.
To date, BioSafety Technologies has completed clinical test trials at five of the largest hospitals in Israel. BioSafety Technologies is collecting more statistical data on COVID-19 subjects from around the world, including Latin America and some parts of the US to further improve the tests’ validity.
Black Seal Advisors Inc. CEO Shahar Turgeman will bring the newest testing innovation here in the Philippines.
Both saliva and breath testing present potential in creating greater visibility against the COVID-19 virus, especially in the tourism sector. If we can adopt new testing methods that can reduce turnaround time and achieve the highest possible accuracy, the better we are able to strategize and save the tourism sector.
Any and all methods that can help facilitate the safe movement of people is an opportunity we should not miss. Of course, we will constantly review testing guidelines and work with the Department of Health to validate these methods and provide the right guidance.
As part of our efforts to help micro-entrepreneurs bounce back, Go Negosyo is doing all it can to mobilize the private sector and explore more testing strategies. The visibility created by testing will allow us to take control of the health situation, which is why we have been advocating enhanced, targeted mass testing through different testing innovations.
We all have a role to play in this fight. Let’s wear our facemasks and face shields, wash our hands properly, and practice social distancing whenever we’re out in public. We have the responsibility to ensure the safety of one another since we cannot win this fight without a united front.
By doing our part, we can save jobs, lives, and livelihoods. Helping MSMEs succeed has been the mantra of Go Negosyo for the past 15 years, and we will continue to fulfil this mission, especially in this time of need.