Press Release
March 30, 2021

'Dapat libre ang mass testing', Pangilinan says amid upsurge of Covid cases

WITH the ongoing upsurge of Covid-19 cases, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan calls for free mass testing anew, together with accelerated contact tracing and treatment, to better manage the spread of the disease.

"Mas maayos at granular ang isolation at mas confined ang shutdown ng mga negosyo kung alam natin kung sino ang may Covid at wala. Kung sinuman ang may sakit, dapat maalagaan at magamot (Isolation would be more logical and granular, and business shutdowns would be more confined if we know who has Covid or not. Those who test positive must be taken care of and treated)," he said.

"Ito ang unang-una sa mga solusyon: Dapat libre ang testing (This is first in multi-step solutions: Testing must be free)," he added.

Pangilinan pointed out that the 1-billion-peso testing fund under the 2021 General Appropriations Act can be used for free mass testing in Metro Manila and in other areas with high Covid positivity numbers.

"Sa ating 2021 national budget, merong 1 billion pesos na nakalaan para sa pagbili ng RT-PCR cartridges (In our 2021 national budget, 1 billion pesos has been allocated for the procurement of RT-PCR cartridges)," he said. RT-PCR refers to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, a laboratory technique considered the gold standard in detecting Covid.

At the same time, Pangilinan suggests that the Senate reconvene as the Committee of the Whole to know how the country is faring in the battle against Covid-19.

"Kasing kritikal ng bilis ng pagbabakuna ang mabilis na testing, contact tracing, treatment and isolation (As critical as the speed needed in our vaccination program is the need to accelerate our testing, contact tracing and isolation)," he said.

In December 2020, Pangilinan filed a resolution asking the Senate to convene as the Committee of the Whole in January to tackle the government's vaccination program.

As Metro Manila and several nearby provinces are on lockdown again, Pangilinan said the public, through the Senate, should be apprised on where the country stands in dealing with the pandemic.

He said that among the questions that government must answer are: As against the target, how many have been tested, traced, isolated and treated? How much has been spent and how much more money are still available for these solutions? What are the obstacles to doing these processes effectively and efficiently?

Pangilinan said the Senate hearing will also be an assessment of the ongoing vaccine rollout.

On March 9, 2020, before the Senate came up with Bayanihan 1 to respond to the still developing crisis at the time, Pangilinan called for free Covid checkup and testing.

"Hindi na dapat makabawas pa sa budget, lalo na ng ordinaryong mamamayan, ang Covid test. Makakahikayat sa ating mga kababayan ang magpasuri kung alam nila na ito ay libre (The Covid test should not be eat up the family budget. More will be encouraged to be checked if it's free)," he said then.

He had also called for decentralized testing and emergency cash assistance for those who will need to take a medical leave due to Covid.

The Philippines has been recording all-time high numbers in new Covid-19 cases, with the Department of Health reporting a record 10,016 new infections on Monday, March 29.

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