Solons want free mass testing as Metro Manila placed in Alert Level 3

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Medical Technologist Erika Alvarado performs a COVID-19 test on a patient who just delivered a baby outside a hospital in Manila, Philippines on Friday, Dec. 24, 2021. In the Philippines, one of the worst-hit by the pandemic in Southeast Asia, daily COVID-19 infections have considerably dropped from an average 22,000 cases just three months ago during an alarming spike set off by the delta variant to just a few hundred in recent days after a delayed vaccination campaign considerably intensified with more vaccine shipment deliveries. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
FILE PHOTO: Medical Technologist Erika Alvarado performs a COVID-19 test on a patient who just delivered a baby outside a hospital in Manila, Philippines on Friday, Dec. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Progressive party-list BAYAN MUNA once again reiterated their calls for free mass testing after the government placed the National Capital Region (NCR) under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15.

“#FreeMassTestingNow, bakuna, at agresibong contact tracing ang kailangan ng mamamayan ngayon sa patuloy ang pagtaas ng kaso at may umuusbong na bagong variant (#FreeMassTestingNow, vaccines, and aggressive contact tracing are what the people need now as the cases [of COVID-19] surge and that there is a new variant),” the party-list said in a tweet.

“Malacañang should implement the much inadequate, even delayed but still crucial free COVID mass testing, together with pro-active contact tracing as well as faster and more efficient vaccine roll out,” Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

The party-list has been advocating for such even in the early months of the pandemic, with its representatives co-authoring HB6848 which seeks to establish a free mass testing program in the country.

Almost two years into the pandemic, the national government has yet to make mass testing free and efficient, contrary to the strategies of other countries such as South Korea that have succeeded in “flattening the curve” early on in the pandemic.

The party-list expressed concern on how employees were required to take a COVID test, of whom the expensive costs are shouldered by the workers themselves.

Marami sa mga manggagawa at empleyado ang required na magpa-test para sa COVID at muna sa kanilang bulsa manggagaling ang testing. Gayon din ang mga may sintomas o kaya'y may exposure sa COVID positive (Many workers and employees are required to test for COVID and pay for it out of their own pockets. Same goes for those with symptoms or were exposed to a COVID positive),” BAYAN MUNA said. “Ang mahal ng halaga ng testing ay maari pang maging dahilan ng pagkalat ng sakit (The unaffordability of testing may even become a reason for the disease to spread).”

The Department of Health (DOH) has had a consistent stance against mass testing as early as March 2020, with top officials denying its necessity.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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