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Robredo pushes for more COVID-19 tests as 30,000 daily ‘no longer enough’

/ 11:29 PM September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo believes that to sustain the country’s gains in its  fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the government would have to do more testing as the 30,000 coronavirus tests a day “may no longer be enough.”

In an interview with the GMA News program “Quarantined with Howie Severino” on Tuesday, Robredo cited the points that the government had been scoring by placing COVID-19 hotspots, including Metro Manila, on a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

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“I think the MECQ was a big help, and indeed, last week’s figures were good.  But it is no time to be complacent,” Robredo said, partly talking in Filipino.  “We are happy because finally we can see that there is hope. But this is no time to be complacent because we saw other countries have no cases for over 100 days, only to have spikes again.”

“But given the positivity rate, I think we need to increase testing, the 30,000 tests may no longer be enough if our goal is to have less than 5 percent positivity rate, because that is the WHO standard.  So we need to increase the tests,” she added.

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The country’s 30,000 testing capacity was set last May, but testing only started July 22.  Since then, there were minor fluctuations, but the country’s highest number of tests in a day was done on Sept. 10, at 43,679 individual tests.

Robredo noted that the small successes mean a lot because it showed that the country was, after all, capable of beating the pandemic.  However, she still stressed that the country could have avoided a lot of things if the government had been decisive about placing measures to prevent transmissions early on.

“This is big because it gives us hope.  Because for so long, we seemed hopeless about the increasing number of cases every day.  August was the worst for us. In fact, last August we had days with almost 7,000 [cases],” she said.

“The problem is that we did not act early.  We should have done a lot of things last February and March, but we are playing catch-up now.  Like for testings, as early as April and May, we set targets of 30,000 tests a day, but we only reached that by July.  We saw that it was a big help reaching the test targets because we found out that community transmissions are getting worse,” she stressed.

The Vice President has been one of the most vocal personalities in suggesting things that the government must improve on in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. As early as January, Robredo raised the possibility of banning inbound flights from China, the origin of the coronavirus disease.

Then during the course of the lockdowns, Robredo gave a myriad of suggestions on how to better respond to the health crisis, raising a few eyebrows among government officials and sympathizers.

On one occasion, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Robredo’s recommendations were not new and had been acted on by the government — prompting Robredo’s camp to release the full text of the suggestions.

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Roque also noted how Robredo tended to be pessimistic, looking at the government’s efforts as a half-empty glass. Robredo clapped back by saying that her office was only filling the half-empty response.

Robredo admitted that some of her suggestions had been implemented by the government — including proposals that she was initially condemned for.

“Actually, they have done a lot — like one of my initial suggestions was to refrain from reporting the ‘new’ and ‘old cases’ because it only confuses people.  It is not relevant, so they removed it,” she said.

“Like the testing. Since March, I have been speaking nonstop about testing. But they did not only dismiss it, they were opposed to it.  They said we will not do mass testing because it is not an effective remedy to control the transmission. And yet they did it,” she added.

At the moment, the country appears to be heading towards a flattening of the COVID-19 curve, although it still has one of the highest cases in Southeast Asia — with 269,407 individuals infected as of Tuesday, 207,352 of whom have recovered while 57,392 are still active cases.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 Testing, Leni Robredo
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