Senators on Friday said the government’s plan of mass testing of suspected coronavirus patients on April 14 would save more lives.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said mass testing is essential.
For those who will test positive, he said the government must have facilities to isolate and care for them.
He said this will reduce the transmission rate of the disease and will save more lives.
“Then after, we can relax Luzon quarantine shutdown,” Recto said.
However, he stressed that the food supply chain should be unhampered and all other essential goods and services.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson has warned that, “if the Department of Health (DOH) does not change its way of handling the COVID-19 crisis, we may be overrun by the COVID 19 faster than we can imagine.”
“When we say mass testing, we do not refer to all the 100-plus million Filipinos. It’s only the most vulnerable– those over 60 years old, which constitutes not even 10 percent of the entire population; those who are exposed; and those with symptoms. The rapid test kits can still be useful according to its specificity,” said Lacson.
“Testing of all symptomatics and those who are high-risk is ideal. This is where the rapid test kits come in. The rapid test kit will identify the positives early so that they can be isolated to prevent infection spread,” he added.
But, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire clarified that only suspected COVID-19 patients who are exhibiting symptoms will undergo the mass testing.
Vergeire said only those persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs) of coronavirus infection with symptoms will undergo mass testing.
Vergeire said patients tested positive for COVID-19 will be brought to community quarantine facilities.
She said that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) officials will thresh out plans and implementation of the mass testing.
The DOH has nine accredited hospitals conducting coronavirus tests for PUIs and monitoring (PUMs).
Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said she believes “we now have a better chance of defeating COVID-19 and of protecting the lives of countless Filipinos” by mass testing for COVID-19.”
“I am glad that the government has listened to the demands of the public and finally acted on this much-needed initiative. Matagal nang kailangan ito, at sana ay agad itong maipatupad para masiguro natin ang kalusugan ng lahat” she said.
Hontiveros made her statement after Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementerof the national task force on the COVID-19 pandemic, disclosed that the government will begin mass testing starting April 14, 2020, and that nine hospitals have already been accredited to conduct the tests, with more on the way.
This is following previous announcements by the DOH that they have received 108,000 testing kits from South Korea, China and Singapore.
“We need to urgently expand the number of Filipinos tested for COVID-19 every day, with priority testing provided for frontliners such as health workers, those considered at-risk such as the elderly and the immunocompromised, and those exhibiting symptoms,” she said.
“This is the only way we will be able to track and isolate cases, and respond in timely fashion to the treatment and care of patients,” she added.
The senator then urged government to speed up the acquisition and distribution of testing kits, and invest in increasing the country’s capacity to locally produce testing kits, citing the kits developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines as “promising examples.”
The government, she said, should improve the capacity of testing centers by coordinating a network of hospital-based and stand-alone laboratories to help speed up and increase the number of tests conducted daily. The Senator likewise emphasized that testing should be free or fully covered by PhilHealth./Stacy Ang