Press Release
April 3, 2020

Go welcomes plan to start COVID-19 mass testing for PUIs and PUMs; more quarantine facilities underway

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and as a member of the Joint Oversight Committee that oversees the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go welcomed government's plan to initiate mass testing for Persons Under Investigation and Persons Under Monitoring in its bid to combat the further spread of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) in the country.

"Buong suporta ako sa gagawin ng gobyerno na mass testing sa mga PUIs at PUMs para mas mapabilis natin ang pagsugpo ng COVID-19 sa ating bansa," Go said on Friday, April 3.

In a press conference on Thursday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and chief implementer of the government's action plan against the coronavirus pandemic Carlito Galvez, Jr. told members of the press that the government is planning to start massive testing of PUIs and PUMs by April 14. This is on top of the other efforts of the government to control the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, such as ongoing capacity building of public and private health facilities to conduct such tests.

"Maganda itong balita dahil sunud-sunod na ang hakbang natin laban sa COVID-19. Ito ang patunay na hindi natutulog ang gobyerno. Patuloy na nagtatrabaho ang gobyerno para malampasan ang krisis na ito at maprotektahan ang kapakanan ng mga Pilipino," Go said.

The government has already initiated massive procurement of test kits and complete sets of personal protective equipment, among other needed medical supplies. The recently enacted Bayanihan to Heal as One Act gives the President needed authority and flexibility to come up with various measures to contain the growing threats of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Among these measures include faster procurement process as an exemption to the usual public bidding procedure and more funds being realigned to fund purchases of medical supplies and equipment.

Go also earlier called for the inclusion of public health workers (PHWs), such as doctors and nurses, in the present COVID-19 testing protocols being implemented by the Department of Health. DOH will now be including PHWs in order to secure the frontliners and ensure ample health human resources in hospitals in the country.

Go also reiterated the need for more testing centers in the country and analysis laboratories. At present, according to Galvez, the country already has nine accredited hospitals and has already asked DOH to expedite other hospitals' requests for accreditation for testing.

"Kailangan na natin ng agarang aksyon para hindi na lumala ang sitwasyon dito sa Pilipinas para mas mapabilis na nating mawala ang COVID-19 sa bansa at bumalik na sa normal na takbo ang pamumuhay ng mga Pilipino," Go said.

Mass testing has already been done worldwide as a step towards containing COVID-19 and is recommended by the World Health Organization. Aside from social distancing, washing of hands and other precautionary steps, WHO emphasizes the crucial role of COVID-19 mass testing in flattening the curve and early detection of those who have contracted the disease, especially those with no symptoms.

Earlier, Go also urged the government to begin converting some facilities as possible temporary quarantine areas for PUIs and PUMs. Some hospitals, particularly in Metro Manila, are already experiencing surge capacity. Securing PUIs and PUMs in temporary quarantine facilities managed by health professionals, instead of merely being allowed to stay in their individual homes for self-quarantine, will drastically reduce the likelihood of contamination.

Recently, the government announced that the Ninoy Aquino Stadium at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, the Philippine International Convention Center and the World Trade Center in Metro Manila are being converted into instant hospitals to accommodate more COVID-19 positive patients and reduce community spread. The 112-bed Ninoy Aquino Stadium-to be manned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Corps-will be operational next week, while PICC and WTC will be finished by April 11.

The government is also eyeing the conversion of the Philippine Arena in Bulacan into a "mega-quarantine facility" after the Iglesia ni Cristo offered it, as announced by Bases Conversion and Development Authority President and CEO Vince Dizon on Friday.

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