By Hannah L. Torregoza
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Sunday pressed for an expanded mass testing nationwide as areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) anticipate a shift from ECQ to general quarantine status.
Sotto said he is concerned over the possibility the rate of COVID-19 infections will remain high or possibly double as soon as workers are allowed to go back to their work.
The Senate leader pointed out COVID-19 infections remain high, especially in Metro Manila which is the local epicenter of the pandemic. In the Senate alone, 20 employees tested positive during a rapid testing conducted on staffers who reported for work when sessions resumed last Monday, May 4.
Sotto said the Senate’s experience should serve as an eye opener to government leaders and the general population who have been pushing for the relaxation of quarantine rules even while the threat of COVID-19 infection remains high.
“These employees duly complied with the stay-at-home order of the government. They just stayed inside their homes for almost two months. They were not exposed to anyone who is sick of COVID-19,” Sotto said.
“They did not show and feel any of the symptoms. Kung sila na nasa bahay lang at sumunod sa lahat ng health protocols ay nag-positive sa virus, siguradong mas malala ang pwedeng mangyari kung ma-lift na ang ECQ at ang lahat ay papayagan nang lumabas ng kanilang mga bahay. (If they are staying in their homes and have been following health protocols yet were positive of the virus, I’m sure it would be worse if we lift the ECQ and all people are finally allowed to go out of their homes)” Sotto pointed out.
While the Department of Health (DOH) is now conducting mass testing in all provinces, Sotto said this should be increased to cover more persons so authorities can get a clearer picture of the extent of COVID-19 transmission.
“Let us remember that even among the quarantined population, the threat that the virus had already invaded their communities and even homes without them being aware of it is also high,” he said.
“Unless mass testing is conducted, we will not know if the person whom we have just talked with, or the person beside us at the grocery aisle or the lady who was pushing the cart before us is infected,” he added.
An expanded mass testing coverage will also serve to caution government leaders against prematurely lifting the current ECQ in Metro Manila and other areas and rushing their transition to general or relaxed quarantine.
“The premature lifting of the strict quarantine regulation could lead to a worse second COVID-19 wave,” Sotto said.