‘Despite 9 months passing by,’ OVP spox still thankful Duterte realized testing is important
MANILA, Philippines — Even if it took some time for President Rodrigo Duterte to realize that testing is an important part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is still happy and thankful with his admission.
Speaking on their regular Sunday radio program, OVP spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said that this affirms Vice President Leni Robredo’s long call for a mass testing to curb the coronavirus transmissions.
During his pre-recorded briefing last December 7, Duterte announced that he realized that testing is a vital part of pandemic response — prompting angry and perplexed reactions from people who have long advocated for mass testing. However, Malacañang assured that testing has always been a priority even with the President’s late admission.
“Well I am thankful that somewhat, he said that testing is important. As early as March VP Leni has been calling for the need to do mass testing,” Gutierrez said in Filipino during a radio interview with DZXL.
“So I am still happy that despite nine months passing by, the President accepted that it is right for us to do testing. Because that has been a long resounding call of VP Leni that the testing is needed to provide a clear picture of how many Filipinos have COVID-19 — where they are, what areas, and how much,” he added.
With the President himself admitting the importance of testing, Gutierrez hopes that fake news and criticism of Robredo due to her strong push for aggressive testing would now stop.
“And because of this, as fake news is rampant in social media, now that the President said it maybe they could stop bashing VP Leni on social media, like when they said that her suggestions for mass testing is not applicable and a mere falsehood,” he said.
“But now, the President himself said it, maybe if they do not believe VP Leni, if they do not believe doctors and other experts, maybe they will adhere with the idea because President Duterte said it,” he added.
As early as March 17 — the start of the Luzon-wide lockdowns — Robredo advocated for community testing or mass testing to ensure that the transmissions would not reach densely-populated areas, which can prove too big of a problem if left unchecked.
Robredo also said that testing could cut off transmissions because it would stop infections on a household, instead of it spreading from one area to another.
While her suggestion gained support from critics of the administration, it was rebuked by Duterte’s supporters and even officials who noted that the government does not have the capacity to do mass testing — as no country in the world has done.
Rather, they said they are opting for “targeted testing,” which was mocked by the opposition as they reasoned out that mass testing never meant testing the whole population.
Aside from these, Gutierrez also hoped that Duterte’s remarks would signal the start of more COVID-19 tests, especially since the Department of Health (DOH) has been gearing for free testing after the President’s statement.
While the country has steadily increased its testing capacity — with over 6.190 million tests conducted since the pandemic reached Philippine shores — it has not been consistently hitting the 40,000 mark as per the DOH COVID-19 tracker.
“I hope with that sign, with the President’s statement, we would have an intensified mass testing because from the experts’ analyses that I’ve read, we may face an underreporting of COVID-19 cases in areas where there is no widespread mass testing,” he explained.
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