Nationalist People's Coalition calls for 'effective, more inclusive' mass testing

MANILA, Philippines – The Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), a party composed of 54 national and local politicians, "strongly" urged the government to hasten mass coronavirus testing in the country.

The NPC recently passed Resolution No. 1, Series of 2020, making 4 recommendations to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Department of Health (DOH), and other concerned agencies as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A copy of the resolution was posted on the NPC's official Twitter account on Monday, April 20, making it the first major political party to publicize a resolution listing recommendations to help address the pandemic.

The NPC members are asking the government to conduct "effective, efficient, responsive, and more inclusive" mass testing through the use of either the polymerase chain reaction or PCR-based test – which uses swabs from patients to determine the presence of the coronavirus – or the rapid test kits – which require the patient's blood sample to detect antibodies.

The party called on the national government to "assist" local government units (LGUs) in establishing their own Biosafety Level 2 facilities that could test samples from possible cases. This includes helping train laboratory technicians across the country.

The NPC also asked the IATF to issue guidelines on how LGUs can properly use their funds to purchase rapid test kits, subject to other protocols set by the DOH.

The party then appealed to the government to be more transparent with the release of vital information about coronavirus cases in the country, which had surged to 6,259 as of Sunday, April 19.

"Finally, [we call on] the IATF and the DOH to guarantee and afford to the public an accurate, opportune, and transparent reporting of data and information related to the COVID-19 crisis," the NPC said.

There has long been public clamor for mass testing in the Philippines, which had to deal with a huge backlog due to the low number of test kits as well as facilities capable of processing patients' samples.

The government has since accredited at least 17 laboratories to test specimens across the country. LGUs have also kicked off their own mass testing initiatives, though the DOH said these local efforts should still prioritize severe to critical cases and the vulnerable population.

It was only on Saturday, April 18, when the IATF decided to allow LGUs to take the lead in fighting the virus, nearly 3 months since the Philippines' first case was reported.

Even without this pronouncement from the IATF, however, several local officials have been proactive in their campaigns to protect their residents and prepare for a possible worst-case scenario.

Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro had even repeatedly clashed with the DOH after the agency dragged its feet in accrediting the city's coronavirus testing center.

Experts have estimated the crisis could last until January 2021 if no proper intervention is done to combat the spread of COVID-19. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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