After Duterte ‘realization,’ DOH now bracing for free COVID-19 tests
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is preparing for the possible conduct of free mass testing after President Duterte admitted to just having “realized” the importance of COVID-19 screening nine months into the health crisis.
According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the DOH is currently computing how much it would cost the government to provide Filipinos free COVID-19 tests.
“Iyon ang hangad ni Pangulong Duterte kaya nga sabi ko pinaghahandaan na natin ito kung magkano nga ang kakailanganin na investment for free testing. Iyon ang isusumite natin kay Pangulo para mapondohan,” Duque told reporters in an online briefing Wednesday.
“So aalamin pa natin ang pangkalahatang investment na kinakailangan,” he added.
In his regular televised speech on Monday, Duterte admitted to having realized the importance of accessible and affordable testing to detect SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
He then asked Duque to come up with a figure to provide the public with free coronavirus testing.
“You know, what’s really important, and I realized now, it’s the testing, the swabbing, the test. It’s expensive,” Duterte told Duque, speaking partly in Filipino.
“So maybe if you can give me a figure, see if there’s money, and we will just buy [testing kits]. And in all government hospitals or in health centers, we will give [tests] free of charge.”
Calls for free mass testing have been going since mid-March when the government imposed strict quarantine measures to curtail the spread of the respiratory disease.
Last month, Duterte ordered the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry to place a price cap on COVID-19 tests.
Under the two agencies’ joint order, private laboratories can only charge patients from P4,500 to P5,000 while the limit for public laboratories is at P3,800.
As of Tuesday, there are 442,785 confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide, of whom, 408,790 have recovered while 8,670 have died.
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