“We have been calling for free mass testing and medical support since 2020. These are the fundamental concerns of poor families, they are not able to take the test immediately and still want to work so that the family can have something to eat.”
By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – As the country logs its highest daily tally of COVID-19 cases in more than three months at 17,220 cases, progressives called on the national government to provide free mass testing, and distribute financial assistance to those who caught the virus.
Anakpawis Party-list First Nominee Rafael Mariano said, “We have been calling for free mass testing and medical support since 2020. These are the fundamental concerns of poor families, they are not able to take the test immediately and still want to work so that the family can have something to eat.”
The Health Department set the price cap on RT-PCR tests at P3,360 ($66) in private facilities and P2,800 ($55) in public facilities. Antigen tests, meanwhile, were capped at P960 ($19).
Public health should have been prioritized
According to the yearend report of research group IBON Foundation, the government grossly underinvested in free mass testing, methodical contact tracing, and judicious quarantines while reopening the economy.
IBON Foundation also pointed out how insufficient spending on public health measures increases the risk of a COVID-19 surge if new variants are more transmissible or vaccine-resistant.
“Insufficient spending on ayuda (aid) doesn’t just make families suffer disproportionately from the over-reliance on lockdowns. It also represses consumption spending and aggregate demand, especially amid worsening job scarcity,” the group added.
Social amelioration is needed
Mariano said a poor family with five members immediately needs P14,000 ($274.32) for testing, not to mention the expenses for medical treatment, and the effect of lack of income.
“[t]he initial step to curb the pandemic is to provide economic support for the poor. The government must resolve this social dimension of responding to the pandemic, because otherwise, the country will only experience repeated surges in cases,” Mariano added.
He appealed to the government to provide P10,000 ($196) assistance to families affected by the pandemic, especially now that Alert Level 3 has been imposed in the capital region until January 15.
“We have memorized this, when you limit the movement of people, the customers of businesses will be reduced, revenue will lessen, employees are laid off, and worst of all, business are bound to close again. Both workers and small businesses are affected by lockdown policies and travel restrictions, so the call for ayuda is very reasonable,” he ended. (RVO)