Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima wants to inquire into the real status of any program on mass testing in the country to address issues that impede the progress of government response to COVID-19
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 425, De Lima said the government’s lack of effective program for mass testing to detect COVID-19 infections in the country has prevented the Philippines from containing the virus.
“More than lockdowns and quarantine, it has been proven in many countries that testing is the first step towards controlling the transmission of COVID-19,” she said.
“The lack of effective mass testing has effectively hampered our ability to control the spread of the virus by denying us leads for contact tracing, which, in turn prevents us from isolating and containing the infected individuals,” she added.
It may be recalled that World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the backbone of COVID-19 response is testing, isolation and contact tracing, claiming this as the most effective way to break the chain of transmission, prevent infections and ultimately save lives
Last May 25, The Department of Health (DOH) expressed doubts that the government could meet its target of conducting 30,000 tests for COVID-19 daily by May 30 due to various intervening factors.
De Lima lamented that the country has yet to reach the expected number of tests to be conducted daily, noting that “the initial scope of the mass testing should have been slowly expanding at this point given that there are recent discoveries of numerous asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in the country.”
As of May 12, government data only shows 151,080 tests on 137,055 individuals in the Philippines which has a population of around 108 million, with 11, 350 confirmed cases and 751 deaths.
Aside from the failure of some health facilities to update their records with the onslaught of new COVID-19 cases, De Lima said there is also a problem in COVID-19 related deaths which are not properly accounted for because some persons had already died before the testing was done.
“According to a report, there exists no national total of how many Filipinos have died of circumstances that resemble COVID-19 but were never confirmed by lab testing. Even the DOH’s COVID-19 Tracker only counts the deaths of confirmed cases,” she said. (30)