PH has expanded targeted COVID-19 tests, 'mass testing' wrong term, Palace says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2020 02:34 PM | Updated as of May 19 2020 03:29 PM

Healthworkers conduct their routine swab testing for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on their fellow hospital employees at the Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on April 14, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The government is conducting expanded targeted testing, Malacañang said Tuesday, following criticism that it left the coronavirus testing of returning workers to their employers and that it does not have a plan for mass testing.

The state's insurance agency will shoulder the cost of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests while employers will shoulder the test of their workers since PhilHealth does not yet have the capacity to reimburse rapid antibody test kits, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

"Unang-una, siguro po kasi mali yung ginagamit nating term na mass testing, ang tawag po dapat ay expanded targeted testing. Wala pong bansa sa buong mundo na tinetest ang lahat ng kanilang mamamayan," he said in a virtual press briefing.

(First of all, maybe because the use of the term mass testing is wrong. We should call it expanded targeted testing. There's no country that tests all of its citizens.)

"Ang susi sa testing ay work on benchmarks, ibig pong sabihin 1-2 percent of the population of the entire country or in the case of an epicenter, even higher, up to 10 percent. Yan po ang ninanais natin sa Metro Manila."

(The key in testing is to work on benchmarks or target 1-2 percent of the population of the entire country or in the case of an epicenter, even higher, up to 10 percent. That's what we're aiming for in Metro Manila.)

Roque on Monday said the private sector was voluntarily testing its employees as government's laboratories and test kits were not enough.

"In an ideal world, dapat po lahat ng tao ma-testing pero alam ninyo ang hirap na nga nitong PCR testing no, 30 pa lang labs natin ang gusto natin mangyari hindi bababa sa 90 'yang PCR testing centers natin," he said.

(In an ideal world, everyone should be tested but PCR testing is difficult because we only have 30 labs. We want at least 90 PCR testing centers.)

On March 15, following a lockdown announcement in Metro Manila to curb the spread of COVID-19, government said it had "sufficient funds" for testing kits.

China, US, France and organizations such as the Asian Development Bank have donated test kits and millions to fund testing to combat the pandemic. 

As of May 15, the government has conducted 11,127 coronavirus tests daily from the usual 5,000 tests in earlier May, Roque said.

Those who need to undergo testing are citizens with symptoms of the disease, those coming from abroad, all close contacts of said persons, and those who tested positive in rapid antibody tests, the spokesman said.

The government has so far distributed 275,000 test kits to areas that do not yet have PCR laboratories, he added.

The Philippines as of Monday recorded 12,718 cases of COVID-19, with 2,729 recoveries and 831 deaths.