Government urged to conduct free mass testing amid new COVID-19 surge

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2022 05:28 PM

People line up for a test at a COVID-19 testing facility at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila on January 4, 2022 as the National Capital Region remains under the stricter Alert Level 3 due to a spike in virus cases in recent days. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
People line up for a test at a COVID-19 testing facility at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila on January 4, 2022 as the National Capital Region remains under the stricter Alert Level 3 due to a spike in virus cases in recent days. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— Health advocates on Friday reiterated their call for the government to conduct free mass testing amid the rise in COVID-19 cases most likely driven by the more transmissible omicron variant. 

In a virtual forum, Dr. Josh San Pedro, co-convenor of the Coalition for People's Right to Health (PCPR), pointed out the lack of disease surveillance and low testing coverage. 

He also lamented the government's supposed inability to cover costs for testing, resulting in people’s out-of-pocket spending.

“Lumalabas na mayroon talagang napakalaking pagkukulang sa usapin ng testing na siya naman talagang cornerstone ng COVID-19 response. Kaya matagal nang panawagan [namin] na magkaroon ng libreng mass testing,” San Pedro said.

(This shows that there is a huge gap in testing, which is the very cornerstone of the COVID-19 response. We've been advocating for free mass testing for a very long time now.) 

Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares also criticized the government’s “incompetent” response, saying that instead of punishing people that are not yet vaccinated, government should speed up its vaccine rollout, conduct free mass testing, and allocate funds to build testing centers and more hospitals. 

He also said government should reform the health care system so that Filipinos can avail of free consultation and medicines.

"Gusto naman magpabakuna ang marami diyan sa probinsiya, wala lang bakuna e. Tapos sila pa ngayon ang ire-restrict mo... Ang concern ng batas i-restrict ang may identifiable diseases. ‘Pag hindi ka ba nakabakuna, may identifiable disease ka na ba? Wala," said Colmenares.

(People want to get vaccinated, most especially in the province, but there's no vaccine available. Now you are going to restrict them. The concern of the law is to restrict those who have identifiable diseases. If you are not vaccinated, are you considered sick?) 

"Wala kang sakit so how can you be part of the legal sanctions kung hindi ka covered ng batas. Wala akong sinasabi na maglabasan tayo lahat… ang sinasabi ko lang hindi naman pwedeng i-impose ng gobyerno iyon dahil sa kapalpakan niya,” the senatorial aspirant added. 

(You are not sick so why are you covered by the law on that? I am not saying we should all go out, but what I am saying is the government could not impose it just loosely because of their failure to begin with.)

Testing czar Vince Dizon earlier this week said mass testing would be difficult to implement due to the government's "limited resources."

“Paulit-ulit po naming sinasabi, limitado po ang ating resources," the official said. 

(We have repeatedly said our resources are limited.) 

The government will have to shell out P200 million daily if it shoulders the cost of 100,000 coronavirus tests at around P2,000 each, he added. 

"At 100,000 tests a day at P2,000 na lang per test...P200 million po iyon na kailangang ilabas ng gobyerno kada araw kung ganoon kadami ang iti-test natin."

Government in September capped plate-based RT-PCR tests at P3,360 for private laboratories and P2,800 for public labs. 

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday night said they are preparing for the "worst case scenario" amid the uptick in fresh infections. 

On Friday, the country posted over 21,000 new infections and a record-high 40 percent positive rate. 

WATCH

Watch more News on iWantTFC