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No mass testing? Opposition groups ask what was 2-month lockdown for

/ 08:47 PM May 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The lack of a concrete mass COVID-19 testing program — even after a two-month lockdown over Luzon and other areas — only proves that the government has misplaced priorities, opposition groups said on Tuesday.

Progressive organizations from the Makabayan bloc and other activist groups said that the recent remarks from Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who admitted that mass testing would be left to the private sector, is just a way for Malacañang to wash its hands from the responsibility of fighting the pandemic.

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According to Makabayan, whose members include lawmakers from party-list groups Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Kabataan, and Gabriela, the government is wrong if it thinks that all private companies can afford to purchase COVID-19 testing kits on their own.

“Malacanang is washing its hands of any responsibility for funding and implementing a mass testing plan […] It seems to be blind to the reality the private sector does not only consist of the big conglomerates that can afford ‘charity and benevolence’ when it comes to implementing necessary measures to ensure the safety of their employees,” Makabayan said.

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“These MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) are barely keeping afloat due to the government-mandated lockdown. Asking them to shoulder the cost of mass testing along with other health-related measures will surely be the last nail in the coffin for many of them,” the group added.

Earlier, Roque insisted that the call for mass testing is wrong, as no government was able to test all of their residents.  Instead, what the government is doing is “expanded targeted testing”, claiming that the government would not leave the private sector on its own.

READ: Gov’t says it’s up to private sector to conduct mass tests for COVID-19 

Aside from Roque, Senator Koko Pimentel also clarified that the government is not mandated by the Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act to do mass testing.

However, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) reminded officials of a World Health Organization call to do mass testing and aggressive contact tracing to get to the root of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The absence of mass testing, isolation, and contract tracing succinctly describes the Duterte administration’s lack of any concrete plan. The idea of shifting from modified lockdown and now passing the fate of millions of Filipinos to the private sectors are demonstrations [of] how our government is fighting the COVID-19 with blindfolds on,” CEGP national president Daryl Angelo Baybado said.

Early into the lockdown, several sectors both from the government and private sectors have already called for mass testing.  However, Roque himself admitted that the government missed out on its self-imposed deadline of having 8,000 daily COVID-19 tests.

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Department of Health (DOH) data on testing as of May 15 showed that they have now recorded 207,823 COVID-19 tests nationwide.  However, opposition groups have noted that this only accounts for 0.1 percent of the country’s whole population.

Health authorities on Tuesday said that there are now 12,942 COVID-19 cases, with 837 casualties and 2,843 recoveries.  Worldwide, over 4.812 million persons have been infected, 318,611 of whom have died while 1.792 million have recovered.

Makabayan also pointed out that the administration’s track record during the two-month lockdown leaned over the negative side — alleged human rights abuses, the death of a soldier with a mental condition, the shutdown of a major news outlet, the return of Philippine offshore gaming operations, silencing critics and political enemies, and erring police officers who violated quarantine regulations.

“With the absence of these essential medical solutions to address the real extent of the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines, the country keeps on combating an invisible enemy — defeating nothing,” Makabayan added.

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TAGS: 2019 Novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, activist groups, COVID-19, enhanced community quarantine, expanded targeted testing, lockdown, Makabayan bloc, mass testing, nCoV update, opposition, Philippine news updates, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Private sector, Vice President Leni Robredo
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