Gov’t sticks to ‘targeted testing’ to control spread of Covid-19

Instead of mass testing, targeted testing or responsible testing should be carried out to control the spread of Covid-19 while ensuring that government resources are not depleted, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, dismissed calls for mass testing, stressing the need for government to be “smart” in terms of spending for the country’s Covid-19 response.

“Responsible testing po yung ginagawa natin kasi (We are conducting responsible testing because) we have to be mindful na hindi unlimited po ang resources ng pamahalaan at ng Pilipinas (that the resources of government are not unlimited). And we have to be smart in where we will put our resources,” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Nograles maintained that aside from testing, the government must prioritize the procurement and purchase of vaccines that provide an added protection against Covid-19.

“Kailangan natin bumili ng bakuna at napakita naman natin mas cost-effective yung bakuna. Mas maraming mababakunahan natin, mas marami pa tayong maiiwasan na maging severe at critical cases ng Covid (We need to buy vaccines and we have shown that vaccines are most cost effective. The more people we vaccinate, the more we can avoid severe and critical cases of Covid),” he said.

He said the government also has to ensure that there are sufficient antiviral drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients, functional bed capacities for those who need hospital care, and more healthcare workers to attend to the sick.

“Marami pong aspeto ang laban against Covid (The fight against Covid has many aspects) and we have to be very smart kung saan natin ilalagay ang pera ng taongbayan (where we allocate public funds),” he added.

Currently, he said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) provides free reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing to members who exhibit symptoms of Covid-19.

“Testing is part of the PhilHealth package and then we are also pushing PhilHealth again na kahit sa home isolation ay kasama dapat sa PhilHealth coverage yung test ng home isolate (to include free testing coverage for those under home isolation),” he said.

Nograles renewed his call to the PhilHealth to expand its Covid-19 Home Isolation Benefit Packages (CHIBP) to include free RT-PCR testing.

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Leopoldo “Bong” Jumalon Vega, for his part, backed Nograles, saying mass testing would potentially be a waste of government resources.

“The policy naman sa (of the) Department of Health and RITM [Research Institute for Tropical Medicine] nitong (on) testing is targeted testing naman talaga o responsible testing kasi kung magma-mass testing tayo, andaming mga negatives niyan. Sayang naman ang resources nga natin kung wala naman kayong exposure tsaka walang symptoms siguradong negative ‘yan (because is we conduct mass testing, there would be so many negatives. It would be a waste of resources if a person has no exposure and no symptoms and it would surely be negative),” he said.

Vega explained that tests are also more accurate when used within a few days of the start of symptoms when the largest amount of virus is present in a patient’s body

“Really it’s targeted testing pati na sa antigen test natin na pinapayagan ng DOH. Kailangan symptomatic kayo para mas accurate yung result mo kung positive ka, positive ka talaga at saka mataas ang specificity (even with antigen test being allowed by the DOH. Patients should be asymptomatic so that results are more accurate and it would have a higher specificity),” he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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