DOH expands list of workers for priority testing
MANILA, Philippines — As the government reopens the economy wider, the Department of Health (DOH) has further expanded its testing for the new coronavirus to include in its priority list workers as well as residents living in areas with increasing infections.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday that since the country can now test an average of close to 20,000 daily, the DOH decided to add four more subgroups to its expanded testing guidelines. The new guideline, which has been signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, takes effect within the week.
Covered under Subgroup G are residents in areas where there is a clustering of cases or where local intervention is needed due to increased community transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“These are areas where there is a high number of cases and evidence of community transmission. We can test them based on the recommendations of their local officials,” Vergeire told reporters.
Front-liners assigned in tourism zones are covered under Subgroup H, while workers and employees of manufacturing companies and public service providers in the economic zones are covered under Subgroup I.
“Economy workers” will also be prioritized for testing under Subgroup J. Among the workers in this subgroup are drivers, conductors, pilots, flight attendants, waiters, restaurant managers, supervisors, teachers in all levels of education, bank tellers, cashiers, store clerks, hairdressers, security guards and messengers.
“What we want is as we slowly reopen our economy, we have safeguards for our employees and businesses. That they know that they can be tested to also ensure their clients that no infection is happening in the establishment,” Vergeire said.
Earlier, the DOH included other front-liners indirectly involved in the COVID-19 response and other vulnerable patients in its original list of four groups to be prioritized for its risk-based testing strategy.
The government aims to test by end-July at least 1.5 percent of the country’s 108 million population, or 1.6 million. As of Tuesday, the DOH has tested more than a million samples since testing began in February. A total of 945,146 people have been tested for the coronavirus, with 75,943 returning positive, for a positivity rate of 8 percent.
On Wednesday, the DOH recorded 1,392 additional coronavirus infections, pushing the national tally to 58,850 cases. Of the additional cases, 512 were patients who tested positive in the last three days, while 880 were confirmed to have been infected four days ago or earlier.
Metro Manila accounted for more than half, or 708, of the additional cases.
The DOH reported that 517 more patients had recovered, raising the number of COVID-19 survivors to 20,976. The death toll, however, rose to 1,614 with the deaths of 11 more patients.
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