DOH not keen on random testing for MRT passengers due to resource constraints

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2020 04:32 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said random testing of MRT-3 passengers may not be doable given resource constraints. 

This, after a group of researchers from the University of the Philippines suggested mass randomized testing, after 200 MRT workers reportedly contracted the disease. 

During a Wednesday morning media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire acknowledged the recommendation of the UP OCTA research group for randomized testing but also cited the difficulty of pulling it off. 

“Pag-aaralan namin 'yan because that’s a recommendation (We’ll study it because it’s a recommendation),” she said.

However, she admitted as well that “it’s resource intensive.”

“Hindi ko pa alam kung kakayanin 'yan ng ating sistema, 'yung sinasabing randomized testing. And for how long will we do this,” she said.

(I don’t know if the system can handle so-called randomized testing and for how long we will do this.)

“Kapag ginawa natin 'yan — sabi nga natin ang ating testing it’s a point-in-time event. So 'pag tinest kita ngayon, bukas may bago ka nang exposure. Ite-test ba kita ulit?” she added.

(If we do that — as I said testing is a point-in-time event. So when we test you now, tomorrow you’ll be exposed again. Will I test you again?)

Vergeire said that even without testing, people should enforce minimum health standards to avoid COVID-19 transmission.

She said it should not only be done for MRT employees but also passengers of any public transportation.

“In epidemiology 'pag widespread ang community transmission, contact tracing talaga hindi na nagwo-work 'yan,” she pointed out. 

“Dito sa MRT na ito gumagawa tayo ng ibang strategies for us to be able na ma-contain natin.”

(In epidemiology, if the community transmission is widespread, contact tracing won’t work anymore. At the MRT, we are creating other strategies to contain the spread.)

Based on media reports, there are now around 200 MRT employees infected with COVID-19, many of them asymptomatic.

Vergeire said that with the MRT closed, they are making sure that all employees affected and their close contacts are quarantined. 

She said other employees will also be tested for COVID-19.

The health official said the Inter-Agency Task Force is already on top of the situation, with recommendations given this week. 

“Titignan natin in the coming days how can we further contain. At sana hindi na maulit ang ganitong event in our country,” she said.

(We’ll see in the coming days how can we further contain. And hopefully this won’t happen again in our country.)

Cases in the Philippines rose in the past days, with the DOH attributing the spread to the easing of community quarantine measures. Government has loosened quarantine restrictions to revive the economy.

The DOH has advised people to continue wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing measures as the government ensured that the health sector is not overwhelmed by the possible surge of cases.

The Philippines has recorded over 47,000 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. The UP OCTA research group estimated that the figure may reach 100,000 by August.