Senate President Vicente Sotto III over the weekend pressed for the increase in mass testing coverage nationwide as areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) anticipate their transition to general quarantine status.
Sotto at the same time expressed concern that most workers will soon be allowed to go back to their workplaces even as the rate of COVID-19 infections remain high, especially in Metro Manila which is the local epicenter of the pandemic.
Sotto cited the case of the Senate, where 20 employees tested positive during a rapid testing conducted on staffers who reported for work when sessions resumed last Monday.
Confirmatory swab testing has been done on the employees. Sotto said medical assistance will be provided to employees who will be found sick and necessary support will be extended to their families.
Sotto said the Senate experience should serve as an eye opener to government leaders and the general population who have been pushing for the relaxation of quarantine rules even while the threat of COVID-19 infection remains high.
“These employees duly complied with the stay-at-home order of the government. They just stayed inside their homes for almost two months. They were not exposed to anyone who is sick of COVID-19. They did not show and feel any of the symptoms. Kung sila na nasa bahay lang at sumunod sa lahat ng health protocols ay nag-positive sa virus, siguradong mas malala ang pwedeng mangyari kung ma-lift na ang enhanced community quarantine at ang lahat ay papayagan ng lumabas ng kanilang mga bahay,” Sotto said.
The Senate President said that while the DOH is now conducting mass testing in all provinces, this should be expanded to cover more persons so health officials can get a clearer picture of the extent of COVID-19 transmission and infection.
“Let us remember that even among the quarantined population, the threat that the virus had already invaded their communities and even homes without them being aware of it is also high. Unless mass testing is conducted, we will not know if the person whom we have just talked with, or the person beside us at the grocery aisle or the lady who was pushing the cart before us is infected,” he added.
Sotto said the results of an expanded mass testing coverage will also serve to caution government leaders against prematurely lifting the current ECQ in Metro Manila and other areas and rushing their transition to general or relaxed quarantine.
“Magagabayan ng resulta ng mas malawak na mass testing ang ating mga lider para sila ay maghinay-hinay sa pagbuo ng desisyon ukol sa pagtanggal ng ECQ. The premature lifting of the strict quarantine regulation could lead to a worse second COVID-19 wave,” Sotto said./Stacy Ang