Press Release
October 20, 2020

Bong Go urges government to explore saliva-based COVID-19 testing; asks DOH-IATF to provide guidance to the public for Christmas activities amid pandemic

Presiding over the Senate Committee on Health hearing as its chair on Monday, October 19, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go asked the Department of Health on the possibility of adopting the saliva-based COVID-19 testing in the country which is reported to be cheaper and less invasive.

"Have you conducted studies on saliva-based testing na ginagamit sa ibang bansa which may be cheaper, less invasive and safer for our health care workers?" Go asked that DOH.

"Baka makatulong itong saliva-based testing to restart our tourism industry which was severely affected by this pandemic," he added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III responded, saying that saliva testing is still being studied by the Health Technology Assessment Council, an independent body created by the Universal Health Care Act.

"I have been pushing for its outcome, ano ba talaga ang magiging recommendation ng HTAC to the DOH and PhilHealth," Duque said.

"This has been going on for the last two to three weeks and we probably need a little more time before a final recommendation be submitted for approval by DOH and PhilHealth," he noted.

Duque said that saliva-based testing needs thorough assessment and studies to ensure its accuracy.

"Mag-antay-antay lang po tayo dahil kinakailangan po rito ang pag-aaral at pagsusuri para makasiguro po tayo na ang accuracy ng testing is of priority," Duque mentioned.

"Kasi we cannot sacrifice, hindi po natin pwedeng madaliin po ito baka naman masakripisyo natin ang accuracy and sensitivity and specificity of the test modality," he added.

In the public hearing, Go also asked Duque if the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has already decided on whether Christmas parties, reunions and other mass gatherings will be allowed during the holidays.

Go also urged the IATF to provide the public with proper guidance on health and safety protocols that will be imposed, particularly in holding any form of gatherings as Christmas season approaches.

Duque said that Metro Manila is still under General Community Quarantine, which allows some activities, including mall sales, in a bid to revive the Philippine economy, as agreed upon by the IATF. As for Christmas parties and other gatherings, Duque noted that the IATF will have to revisit its guidelines.

Duque, meanwhile, assured Go that the IATF will submit its final recommendations once everything is already finalized, which will be presented also to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Go has emphasized that the government is slowly reopening the economy while still imposing necessary health and safety protocols to protect Filipinos amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. However, he reminded everyone that health should be prioritized when government makes decisions.

"Safety first. Para sa akin, unahin muna natin ang kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan. Mas importante sa akin ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino," he mentioned, adding, "Ang pera po ay kikitain natin pero 'yung perang kikitain natin ay hindi mabibili ang buhay. A life lost is a life lost forever."

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