By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the government to also test persons who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, saying they could be “silent carriers” of the disease.
Hontiveros pointed out that recent testing operations in Valenzuela City, and Sitio Zapatera in Cebu City showed that a number of individuals had been infected with COVID-19 but were “asymptomatic.”
This has led local chief executives like Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian and Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto to call for mass testing for all persons to improve the government’s response to the pandemic.
“Malinaw na hindi dapat limitado sa mga taong may malalang sintomas ng COVID-19 ang ginagawang testing ng pamahalaan para matigil ang pagkalat ng sakit na ito (It’s clear that we shouldn’t let the government’s mass testing be limited only to those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 so we can stop the spread of this disease),” Hontiveros said.
“Our testing protocols need to be updated to adapt to emerging realities on the ground, especially if the ECQ is extended to May. Our testing objectives must be expanded to service entire communities, frontliners, the elderly and immune-compromised persons,” she stressed.
“Given what we now know, government should not be prevented from testing asymptomatic persons, since it is clear that even people without symptoms of COVID-19 can carry and spread the disease among their families and communities. We have to test as many people as we can, as soon as we can,” she added.
Hontiveros, likewise, urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) to also accelerate its mass testing, saying she hopes that the government is “inching closer” to its goal of conducting 10,000 tests per day by the end of April.
“Mass testing requires ramped up local production of testing kits and capacitated regional testing centers in Visayas and Mindanao,” she said.
At the same time, the lawmaker said the government should capacitate regional testing centers now that more cases are reported in other regions.
She also emphasized the need for the government to closely monitor people in emerging “disease hotspots” such as prisons, markets and urban poor communities.
Hontiveros said whether or not the government will extend the enhanced community quarantine or modify, it cannot proceed without conducting mass testing.
“We should stop the disease at the onset by closing in on early cases so that they can be isolated and treated to prevent further transmission,” the senator stressed.