MANILA — Lawmakers from the left-wing Makabayan bloc have filed a bill seeking to mandate mass testing for the novel coronavirus, as the Philippines prepared to relax its pandemic lockdowns to protect jobs and the economy.
Filed Wednesday, House 6848 sought free tests for all suspected carriers of the respiratory disease, the close contacts of probable and confirmed cases, high-risk communities, health workers and other vulnerable sectors.
Malacañang claimed Monday that the Philippines has achieved its target of increasing its coronavirus testing capacity to 30,000 per day but actual COVID-19 tests ran by the government daily remain below 10,000.
"The dismally slow mass testing is nowhere acceptable to the people, especially to our health workers and other frontliners who are sent to their suicide mission without enough personal protective equipment," read the proposed law's explanatory note.
The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, which gave President Rodrigo Duterte, special powers to address the crisis, lacked a mass testing provision.
Based on international standards, governments should test 1 to 2 percent of the population, which is "a good statistical sample," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque earlier said.
In virus epicenters like Metro Manila, authorities aim to test 10 percent of residents while in barangays with high infection rate, all residents are screened with help from the private sector, he said.
The Philippine "expanded targeted testing" is unlike the "mass testing" of Wuhan City in central China, the pandemic's global epicenter that aims to screen all 11 million of its residents, said Roque.
The tally of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines breached the 15,000-mark on Wednesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte will decide Thursday on a recommendation to further ease the Philippine lockdown, one of the world's longest.
With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News