By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Despite the apparent delay, a community doctor said proper mass testing, if executed well, can still help the Philippine government counter the spread of COVID-19 as the country goes on a two-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
Dr. Julie Caguiat, one the convenors of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health and executive director of the Community Medicine Foundation, said that the mass testing can provide the government a “map” that lays down the arena of its fight against the deadly virus.
The Philippine government is set to conduct mass testing beginning April 14, which Caguiat described as a belated response. Still, she said, this will help the government in decision-making, especially in identifying which areas should be put on quarantine or not.
At the second episode of Altermidya’s public service program Frontliners, April 11, Caguiat said that mass testing will not only entail highly-capable testing centers but also resources and capacity-building on the ground as local government units are set to shoulder a “big chunk” of work in stopping the spread of the pandemic. She also stressed that local governments have uneven capacities in confronting a pandemic.
Testing centers should be available even on the provincial level, she said.
As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has afflicted more than 1.8 million globally. Meanwhile, the Philippines is plagued with 4,932 confirmed cases, with 315 deaths.
Various groups have long been pressing the government to conduct mass testing, which has also been strongly advised by the World Health Organization. This was initially thumbed down by the health department, saying there was no need until much recently.
“Imposing a lockdown is no joke. It has social and economic impacts on the lives of the people,” she said.
As early as now, Caguiat added the Philippine government should identify more quarantine areas, especially with reports of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the provinces.
Caguiat added that a transition period and “new normals” may be put in place when the lockdown is finally lifted to prevent a second wave of transmission.
The goal, she added, it to put “normalcy” in the lives of the people.