MANILA - The Department of Health is working to lower the cap on confirmatory swab tests or RT-PCR tests as budget for mass testing is best put to use on healthcare workers' benefits, its chief said Friday.
Random mass testing of 5 percent of a country's population results in only 2 percent risk reduction value, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque, citing a study in medical journal The Lancet.
"That is P1.4 billion a day. That is P14 billion every 10 days. I'd rather put that money for my healthcare worker benefits, for ayuda (aid) in communities doing granular lockdowns. That’s the way to put this huge sums of money to best use," he told ANC's Headstart.
"We continue our targeted risk-based testing. Alam naman natin sino bang naoospital, sino ba ang nagsesevere (We know who are hospitalized, who becomes severe)."
The World Health Organization's representative to the Philippines earlier urged government to reserve its confirmatory testing for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, healthcare workers, and persons with comorbidities.
The DOH is working to lower the cap on RT-PCR tests, Duque said.
Currently, it is priced at P2,800 for plate-based and P2,450 for GeneXpert in public laboratories, P3,360 for plate-based and P2,940 for GeneXpert in private laboratories, and P1,000 for both plate-based and GeneXpert for home services.
"We’re working to lower the price, we already lowered it from what it used to be," Duque said.
"We’ll review again, we need to scope the market we see more and more players, testing kit manufacturers are in the market. I'm sure this is going to push the prices down."
Contact tracing is also no longer a priority in areas with high transmission such as Metro Manila, Duque said.
"If you're in a high transmission area, contact tracing will have to be poured in other activities like in home isolation and quarantine monitoring," he said.
"It is still very necessary especially in low transmission areas so we can cut the chain transmission. In high transmission areas, very explosive eh, bago ka matapos ng contact tracing, nahawaan na (before you can finish contact tracing, people have already gotten infected)."