Asymptomatic now included in gov’t expanded testing for COVID-19

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People who do not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms are  included in the government’s expanded testing program, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government’s COVID-19 task force approved the measure following the procurement of 10 million RT-PCR test kits by the Department of Health (DOH)  and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Guidelines on the testing protocol will soon be released by the National Task Force (NTF) on pandemic response and the Department of Health, Roque said.

“In principle, approved na po na we will test beyond those who are symptomatic,” Roque said in a virtual press briefing.

Under the government’s expanded targeted COVID-19 testing program, symptomatic patients and health workers on the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic are prioritized for testing.

The expansion of the testing program comes as the Philippines gain some 10 million COVID-19 testing kits, Roque said.

“Kasama na po sa ite-test ay hindi lamang ang mga symptomatic at hindi lamang ‘yung nagkaroon ng contact sa mayroong COVID-19, kasama na rin po ang mga asymptomatic (We will not just test symptomatic patients and those with contact with COVID-19 patients but also those who are asymptomatic.),” said Roque.

Philippine COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon earlier said the Philippines has the capacity to run over 50,000 tests for COVID-19 per day but the country has yet to maximize this.

Roque’s announcement comes after 11 individuals representing various sectors on Friday asked the Supreme Court to order the government to conduct free mass testing for COVID-19.

Assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the petitioners asked the court to ramp up contact tracing and rapid containment and improve laboratory testing capacity.

“The omission of proactive and efficient mass testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a systemic and normalized violation of the right to health engenders the impairment of other human rights and liberties, such as the rights to travel, livelihood or work, education, and access to justice,” they said in a petition.

As of June 30, the Philippines had tested 681,667 individuals, according to government data.

As of this week, the Philippines only runs an average of 14,000 COVID-19 tests per day according to the Department of Health./Stacy Ang

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