To save lives, the lawmakers said the government must recognize the extreme importance and urgency of mass testing along with medical solutions such as contact tracing, isolation, and treatment.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Progressive lawmakers filed a bill seeking to mandate free mass testing for all suspected and probable COVID-19 cases to know the extent of transmission and infection rate in the country.
House Bill No. 6848 or the Free Mass Testing Act of 2020 was filed on May 27 by legislators belonging to the Makabayan bloc.
“The lack of initiative and intention from the executive to perform its constitutional mandate to protect and promote the right to health of the people prompts us to take an immediate action,” representatives of Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers Partylist, Gabriela Women’s Party and Kabataan Partylist said in the explanatory note.
The bill is pushing for testing of health workers, government employees, students, teachers and non-teaching personnel, returning overseas Filipino workers, tourists, and the vulnerable sectors.
Also included in the bill is the establishment and accreditation of public testing centers in every region, with results released not later than 48 hours. These facilities will be provided with trained and equipped health workers.
As of this writing, majority of testing centers are located in the National Capital Region. Scientists have earlier pointed out that instead of flattening the curve, the Philippines may have reached the ceiling of its testing capacity.
The bill proposes the use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and anti-body testing.
To save lives, the lawmakers said the government must recognize the extreme importance and urgency of mass testing along with medical solutions such as contact tracing, isolation, and treatment. They added that the public health system should be provided with due supply and equipment to defeat the dreaded virus.
As it stands, the Philippines has been conducting an average of 7,866 tests daily for the past seven days as of May 26. This is a far cry from the earlier pronouncement of 30,000 daily tests by the end of May. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases announced earlier that it plans to test at least two percent of the population as part of its “enhanced targeted testing.”
Yesterday, May 28, the Philippines recorded more than 500 new confirmed cases, surpassing its 15,000-mark. The government’s own data, too, revealed 3,600 backlogs for test results.
The Philippine government refuses to use the term “mass testing,” saying that no country has tested all of its citizens.
Makabayan lawmakers pointed out the Duterte administration’s “wrong understanding of mass testing.” They lamented that after two months of community quarantine, the government still has no plan or intention to conduct mass testing.”
The main authors of the bill are Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.