Free mass testing: Compromise proposed in Metro Manila alert level policy

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2021 10:54 AM

Residents pass through a community quarantine gate set up in Brgy. 178 in Pasay City on September 07, 2021. Neighborhood watchmen man the gate in shifts as the city waits for Granular lockdown rules from Covid-19 response authorities. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Residents pass through a community quarantine gate set up in Brgy. 178 in Pasay City on September 07, 2021. Neighborhood watchmen man the gate in shifts as the city waits for Granular lockdown rules from Covid-19 response authorities. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Government should conduct free mass testing and allow only vaccinated workers outside their homes if it will enforce the proposed alert level and granular lockdown policy in Metro Manila, a public health advocate said Monday.

Mass testing, intensified contact tracing, and increased vaccination should be in place as the policy will grant more mobility to the public, according to Dr. Tony Leachon, who previously served as special adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

"Kung i-apply natin ang granular lockdown, baka yung mobility will actually increase transmission and we'll reach 30,000 [daily new cases] by September," he told ANC's Headstart.

(If we apply granular lockdown, mobility will will actually increase transmission and we'll reach 30,000 by September.)

"You only do granular lockdowns when the cases are manageable. The 9,000 [cases] in NCR (National Capital Region) is bigger than the total new cases in Indonesia."

The alternative would be to implement a strict lockdown and conduct mass testing, Leachon said.

"I don’t believe in lockdown...but the timing is off. I know we have to live with the virus but they should have done their homework weeks or months ago. Kasi the infrastructure--testing, contact tracing--ay hindi (are not) in place," he said.

It is also "unbelievable" that the Philippines has yet to provide free COVID-19 tests for its citizens, Leachon said. Government should conduct some 100,000 to 150,000 tests daily, he added.

"To me that’s unacceptable because it's in the playbook of every country, every modal country," he said.

"Dapat i-rechannel natin ang (We should re-channel our) funds for face shields and face masks to the testing and also to ayuda (aid) and to contact tracing."

It is important to set a threshold level if the alert level policy is implemented, according to Leachon. Authorities should look at the country's positivity rate, healthcare utilization, and the trend of infections, he said.

"If the positivity rate will reach 30 to 35 percent that’s an ominous sign we're not doing well. Ibig sabihin (it means) increasing ang transmissibility," he said.

"It will actually be translated into higher cases...And another one kung pumasok tayo sa (if we reach) critical rate; 77 percent tayo, ang critical rate 85 percent. When we reach these numbers, I think magko-collapse ang healthcare system."

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