By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday said he supports the proposal to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for at least two weeks.
Gatchalian said doing so would help provide a clearer picture of the results of the mass testing that the government is set to launch on April 14. The two-week period, he said, will also buy time to analyze the results of the massive testing.
The senator said lifting the enhanced community quarantine before the date of the mass testing will undermine the reliability of its results and would only accelerate the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
“Without mass testing, we are totally blind. And when we are blind, the risk is higher of spreading the virus again, thereby wasting the 30-day Enhanced Community Quarantine,” Gatchalian explained.
“Bagama’t may ilang araw na lamang ang natitira bago magwakas ang enhanced community quarantine, nakikita nating patuloy pa rin ang pag-akyat ng bilang ng mga pasyenteng may COVID-19 sa bansa (Though we have a few days before the end of the enhanced community quarantine, we see a spike in the number of patients with COVID-19 in the country,),” the senator said.
“Kaya dapat ipatupad pa rin ang social distancing habang mayroong mass testing (That’s why we need to still impose social distancing while there is mass testing),” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian said mass testing will also help paint a clearer picture of COVID-19 spread in the country and help track down those who are infected so they can at once be isolated or ordered quarantined.
Nevertheless, he said the planned mass testing should have a targeted approach and prioritize those who have been exposed to COVID-19-positive patients such as those Persons under Monitoring (PUM), Persons under Investigation (PUI) and the frontliners.
Gatchalian said mass testing should also cover asymptomatic carriers who may be unknowingly spreading the disease. This is a better approach to flatten the curve and at the same time it would lead to a more efficient use of resources and avoid further strain to the country’s already overwhelmed health care system, the senator insisted.
The lawmaker, likewise urged the Department of Health (DOH) to fast track capacity-building and accreditation of testing laboratories as it is important for the country to have a sustainable capacity for mass testing.
He also said mass production for locally produced testing kits developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) will boost the country’s testing capacity.