Press Release
March 31, 2021

Hontiveros urges NTF to establish official 'national mass testing system'

Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the National Taskforce on COVID-19 (NTF) to establish an official mass testing system for the COVID-19 response, after Testing Czar Vince Dizon announced that they would only now increase the country's testing capacity.

The senator stressed that the Department of Health (DOH) had earlier recommended the use of antigen tests to massively screen for cases. She questioned why the NTF was 'only now paying attention to the suggestion'.

"I urge the NTF to be more vigilant. We have all the tools and information, but we keep on acting too late. This is what happened when we didn't close our borders the first time, and again, when we failed to close them as the new variants started to spread. Ngayon, sisisihin natin ang variants at mutations para lang pagtakpan ang mga pagkukulang natin? Any public health expert will tell you that if the virus had been contained, walang magaganap na mutation," she said.

"We need a 'prevention mindset' para hindi na tayo laging natataranta. Nalulunod na tayo sa iba't ibang krisis. This is yet another example of gross mismanagement. Bakit ngayon lang naisipang pakinggan yung recommendation? I really hope no one is profiting from this, " she added.

Hontiveros said that although the targeted 90,000 tests was a good start, it should 'be the floor, not the target ceiling'. Citing from the DOH COVID-19 tracker, Hontiveros said the country tested as few as 28,000 cases in the month of March even if cases were soaring.

"Dahil huli at hindi naging magaling, naghahabol tayo ngayon sa ating testing. We need an official and national mass testing system to hit our targets and to hit them smartly. We need to increase the magnitude of testing and sustain the quality so that we do not post artificial improvement, " she said.

"Today we have an average of 13 tests for every confirmed COVID-19 case. This is an extremely far cry from the 111 tests per case of Thailand, and the 1000 tests per case of Vietnam. Habang sa kanila, bumababa ang cases, dito sa atin, sa unang step pa lang, missing link na agad. The first step to making any good decision is mass testing, but we aren't even doing nearly enough to make the rest of the steps— contact tracing and isolation— fully effective," she said.

Hontiveros remarked that as early as May 2020, the Testing Czar had been saying that testing needed to be ramped up, but has failed to meet the thousandfold target since then. She added that the country also wanted to hit 10 million by the first quarter of 2021, but fell short by almost 500,000 tests.

"It's been 10 long months since we set new targets which we have drastically failed to hit. So what has kept our Testing Czar busy since then? Why were we setting targets we had no interest in fulfilling?" she asked.

"The truth is we have no choice but to set high targets, and hit them. No ifs or buts. We cannot just say we will do more and better, we have to actually do it. We need to test more and sustain it so we can achieve a 5% or less positivity rate, until we complete the national vaccination program. We can no longer fall short because the consequence is the disturbing outbreak we are facing and will continue to face," Hontiveros concluded.

News Latest News Feed