549 vendors from four private and public markets in Quezon City were pool tested for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) following the local government’s second partnership with Project Ark.

The tested vendors were from Frisco, Tandang Sora, Philand Dr., and Balintawak Market. One percent or eight individuals tested positive and were immediately taken to community care facilities.

Mayor Joy Belmonte expressed gratitude to Project Ark, a private sector initiative, as it collaborated with the city once again for the new testing strategy.

“We appreciate the continuous support of Project Ark in our battle against COVID-19. This initiative complements our testing efforts as we slowly gear towards revitalizing our economy,” Belmonte said.

City Health Department (CHD) Chief Dr. Esperanza Arias said the pooled testing is suitable for big groups as it allows testing of more individuals with fewer resources.

“Pooling allows us to save resources and test more citizens initially. We will only need to retest them individually if a pool indicated a positive result,” said Arias.

Through the pooled testing, Arias explained, swab samples from five asymptomatic individuals are processed together to detect COVID-19.

The samples from pooled tested individuals are taken to laboratories of the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC).

The mayor said the partnership, which is worth P4.5 million, will allow 4,000 more individuals to be tested.

“Our priority would be our non-medical frontliners such as market vendors, jeepney and tricycle drivers, and call center agents among others.

“These workers risk exposure to the highly-contagious virus while earning a living, and completing essential tasks that we might take for granted,” said Belmonte.