Dr. Fidel Peñamante, president of the Philippine Medical Association-General Santos City chapter (PNA GenSan file photo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The medical community here on Wednesday called for more aggressive testing and contact tracing to detect all probable and suspected coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in local communities.

Dr. Fidel Peñamante, president of the local Philippine Medical Association chapter, issued the call as the city recorded on Tuesday its highest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases since last year at 191.

He said massive testing and contact tracing should be done in the barangays as “primary defense” amid the ongoing surge.

“We should bring the battleground to the communities and encourage those who have minimal to mild symptoms to get tested and submit themselves to proper isolation and treatment,” Peñamante told reporters.

He said the city government should expand its free reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) services for workers and other vulnerable sectors.

Peñamante, who previously served as head of the city health office, said many residents are hesitant to get tested for Covid-19 due to the prohibitive costs.

The average RT-PCR testing rate in public facilities here is currently at PHP3,800 and PHP4,500 and up to PHP5,000 in private hospitals and laboratories, he said.

“This should be offered for free by the local government. This way, we can detect and isolate more infected individuals, and prevent them from transmitting the disease,” he said.

City officials are not immediately available for comment but Mayor Ronnel Rivera earlier said the local government has been continually expanding its testing activities in the area’s 26 barangays.

The city is currently under general community quarantine and has adopted additional restrictions, among them the Sunday lockdown, while keeping most economic activities unhampered.

Aside from the testing and contact tracing, it has expanded the vaccination of eligible residents against Covid-19.

As of Tuesday night, the active Covid-19 cases in the city are at 986, the highest since March last year, and mostly traced to exposure to confirmed infections.

The confirmed cases in the city already reached a total of 12,209, the second-highest in Region 12 (Soccsksargen), with 414 related deaths and 10,809 recoveries.

As of Sept. 20, Peñamante said 95 percent of the beds in the Covid-19 wings of the seven referral hospitals in the city were already occupied and the intensive care units (ICU) are fully occupied.

A report from the Department of Health said the city has 292 allotted beds for Covid-19 cases. (PNA)