Duterte admin prodded to speed up COVID-19 mass testing amid extended lockdown
MANILA, Philippines — The government should take advantage of the latest extension of the COVID-19 lockdown over the National Capital Region (NCR) and other areas by speeding up its mass testing procedures.
This was the call of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), stressing that the Duterte administration should “rectify serious shortcomings” in its fight against the pandemic.
“Government should step up mass testing, not just in terms of the total number of tests but more so in terms of the concentration or focus of the tests, the areas that have a high incidence of COVID 19,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said in a statement.
“The necessary health and economic measures have long been lacking in the areas under ECQ, which is the reason why another extension is now being imposed. The government must also rectify these serious shortcomings towards the eventual lifting of the ECQ,” he added.
The national government on Tuesday extended the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) – albeit “modified” – in NCR, Cebu City, and Laguna province until May 31 as these areas are still considered “high-risk” for COVID-19 transmission, and placed dozens of provinces deemed to have “moderate risk” for virus spread under the general community quarantine (GCQ) from May 16.
Meanwhile, the national government is set to remove quarantine measures in areas considered “low-risk” for COVID-19 transmission by May 16.
Reyes said the government must still ensure that health measures are in place and personal protective equipment like face masks must remain available across the country amid loosened quarantine classifications.
“The lifting of the ECQ and the transition to GCQ in many provinces still necessitates timely health interventions as the population prepares to return to work,” he explained.
“The health of the workforce must be ensured. Face masks should be made free. Employers should shoulder the cost of mass testing of their workforce. Transportation, which was already lacking even before the ECQ, should be made available for the workforce,” he added.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque previously admitted that the government missed out on its April 30 goal of having 8,000 tests per day but also said that the “by hook or by crook”, the country will do the COVID-19 test of 30,000 a day by end of May. Calls for the government to urgently move to adopt a policy on mass testing started in March.
Department of Health (DOH) data on May 10 showed that 173,352 individuals have been tested for possible coronavirus infection by various testing sites, with 15,002 initially testing positive.
And despite the easing of quarantine regulations, DOH has admitted that they have yet to control the spread of the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, which causes respiratory illness COVID-19, reminding people to still observe health protocols to avert mass infections.
As of Tuesday, DOH said the Philippines has 11,350 SARS-CoV-2 infections as well as 751 deaths and 2,106 recoveries from COVID-19.
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