ECQ alone won’t curb coronavirus, PH needs mass testing – UP expert

Bonz Magsambol

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ECQ alone won’t curb coronavirus, PH needs mass testing – UP expert

'Mass testing, isolation, and contact tracing – this is where we should invest,' says Professor Jomar Rabajante of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team

MANILA, Philippines – How can the Philippines win the battle against the novel coronavirus?

For Professor Jomar Rabajante of the University of the Philippines (UP) COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, putting areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) won’t be enough to curb the virus. It has to be paired with mass testing. 

“Isa talaga sa magandang way to fight this pandemic is hindi matagalang ECQ, kundi malawakang testing, isolation, and contact tracing. Dito talaga tayo mag-invest,” Rabajante said during a Rappler Talk interview on Monday, May 11. 

(A good way to fight this pandemic is not prolonged ECQ but mass testing, isolation, and contact tracing. This is where we should invest.)

Rabajante said that although the coronavirus test kits are expensive, the government should invest in them instead of always extending the ECQ.

“Ano ang gusto natin? Mag-invest sa testing and puwede mag-open ang economy? Or forever closed ang economy at walang dadaan na pera?” Rabajante said. 

(What do we want? Invest in testing so we can reopen the economy? Or forever shut down the economy and not have money circulating?)

An imported real-time polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test kit costs around P8,000. Meanwhile, the coronavirus test kit developed by UP scientists costs around P2,700 to P3,000. The UP test kits, however, have yet to be mass-produced.

Due to limited testing capacity, the Philippines is only testing severe to critical cases and the vulnerable population. (READ: Mass testing will cover severe to critical cases, vulnerable population – DOH)

On Sunday, May 10, the Department of Health said it finally reached its target of conducting 8,000 COVID-19 tests in a day – although 10 days past its target date of April 30.

These were due to the tests done by accredited centers across the country supported by local governments. Previously, the DOH only had 5 accredited testing centers.

Meanwhile, Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief and national testing czar Vince Dizon said the government targets to do 30,000 coronavirus swab tests daily by May 30

As of Monday, the Philippines recorded 11,086 cases of coronavirus infections, with 726 deaths and 1,999 recoveries.



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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.