MANILA - Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday urged the Department of Health (DOH) to issue guidelines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) survivors after he briefly tested positive for the disease again.
Zubiri, who recovered from COVID-19 in April, tested positive for the disease hours before President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address, but was cleared of the virus after he underwent a confirmatory swab test.
"The DOH must come out with the right protocols in dealing with recovered patients, so they won’t be discriminated against in the future," Zubiri said in a privilege speech.
COVID-19 survivors usually yield false-positive results in swab tests after recuperating from the disease as the kits can also detect "remnants" of the virus, he said.
This causes "undue stress" and "anxiety" for family members and other people who come in contact with a COVID-19 survivor, Zubiri said, noting that several senators were "alarmed" over his possible second bout against virus.
As a precaution, at least 5 senators who had lunch with Zubiri immediately went into isolation after the the Senate Majority Leader received his false-positive results.
"We are more than 4 months into this pandemic and we should have perfected or at the very least attained a certain degree of expertise and accuracy in our testing capability," Zubiri said.
"These facts and scenarios could have been factored-in in our testing protocols and triage screening of patients. It could not be one-machine or one-system-fits-all," he said.
The DOH wrote a letter to the Senate, saying that senators and other individuals who were in contact with Zubiri are not required to be isolated as the Senate Majority Leader's case " is most likely not a true infection."
"Those who are close contacts of the senator need not necessarily be quarantined since this is most likely not a true infection," the letter read.
Zubiri also urged the government to invest in more state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing equipment that could differentiate COVID-19's live cells from remnants of the virus.
"This is not to discount the capabilities and professionalism of our medical experts in our hospitals and government laboratories, but they must be given the necessary or right machines," he said.
"No matter how good they are, without state-of-the-art machines, their expertise could be put to naught," he said.