Press Release
April 4, 2021

Use legislated P20B in Bayanihan 1, 2 and 2021 national budget for free mass testing, tracing: Pangilinan

WITH at least 20 billion pesos in funds, the government should roll out a more aggressive testing and contact tracing program for the coronavirus to locate as many carriers of the infection and curb its spread, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said Sunday.

The senator made the call as public and private hospitals in Metro Manila and nearby provinces are swamped with Covid patients, many with dozens of patients on queue and running at critical capacity. The government's Philippine Orthopedic Center has shut down due to Covid infections of close to 66 percent of its hospital staff.

Pangilinan said testing and tracing would complement the lockdown measures in place touted as one of the strictest and longest in Asia.

"Ikamamatay natin kung kulang ang testing at contact tracing. Walang kwenta ang pag-lockdown kung hindi mapipigil ang mga bagong pagpupugaran ng virus (It would be fatal to drop the ball on testing and contact tracing. The people's hardships while under lockdown will be for naught if we will not be able to arrest the new breeding grounds of the virus)," he said.

"Gusto nating magtiwala na ginagamit nang maayos ang pondo sa pakikipagkarera para ma-contain ang Covid-19 (We trust that the funds are being utilized efficiently and expeditiously as we race in containing Covid-19)," he stressed.

From the Bayanihan 1 Law, a total of 1.91 billion pesos has been released to the Department of Health (DOH) for the procurement of testing kits. A separate amount of P53 million went to the Department of Science and Technology to produce testing kits for 26,000 tests.

From the Bayanihan 2 Law, 10 billion pesos has been earmarked as standby fund for testing and procurement of medicines and vaccines under the DOH.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) was also given 5 billion pesos for the hiring of 50,000 contact tracers.

From the 2021 General Appropriations Act, the DILG got another 1.9 billion pesos for contact tracing, while the DOH was released 1 billion pesos for RT-PCR cartridges.

"May pondo tayo, walang hadlang para hindi gawin ang sinasabi ng batas tungkol sa testing at contact tracing (The funds are available. There is no excuse for the government not to do what the law says on testing and contact tracing)," Pangilinan said, adding that concerned agencies must be able to show to the people how the resources are being used to move the country closer to overcoming the pandemic.

At the onset of the pandemic, public health experts have emphasized the importance of contact tracing, a decades-old strategy aimed at interrupting infectious disease transmission.

"Mahirap ang trabaho, pero walang excuse para hindi gawin ang testing at contact tracing. Hindi ito ang mga tanging lunas sa virus, pero ang maayos na pagpapatupad nito ang magpapadali sa pagsugpo sa Covid-19 (The task may be challenging, but there's no excuse not to do testing and contact tracing. These are not the panacea to the virus, but doing them effectively will make the battle against Covid-19 more manageable)," Pangilinan said.

On Friday, April 2, the Philippines recorded 15,310 new confirmed Covid-19 cases -- the country's highest single-day tally so far as an upsurge of the disease has been noted over the last couple of weeks. On Saturday, April 3, new Covid infections in the country numbered 12,576.

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