By ATTY. GREGORIO LARRAZABAL
That should be the battle cry now. Test as many Filipinos as possible. To be able to get a clear picture of the real situation in the Philippines.
Just last week, when Congress resumed session, Senate employees who went to the Senate office to work were tested. Despite only having a skeletal force report for work, out of those tested, 18 tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Sen. Lacson said it best when he asked, “How can we even talk of flattening the curve when we are not testing enough? The curve as it is now clearly indicates a steady climb in the number of infections on a daily basis and has remained unabated.” And there is the crux of the issue. The curve is not yet flattening. It’s steadily increasing, but thankfully at a pace much slower than before.
This is a very good point. Testing is the first (and probably most important step). But there has to be attention on the following:
1. Have an efficient way to make sure the samples are delivered to the testing labs ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll probably have false-negatives. This is not really a problem in Luzon, because transportation is easy. What’s more important is the Visayas where test samples from other provinces have to be shipped/transported to the testing labs to be processed.
2. Processing of samples must be done so that the results are known in a speedy manner. MANY of those who died were confirmed to be COVID-19 positive only AFTER they died. This is something that really has to be addressed. The problem here is that the delay in knowing the results prevents the family, relatives, friends, and people who were in contact with those who died, in taking the appropriate measures to isolate themselves or go to be tested.
Another offshoot of an efficient processing of samples is what happened in Region 7 last week. The number of infected patients was on a steady climb, but on May 5, there was an unusual dip in the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in Cebu. Then on May 7, there was a surge in the number of COVID-19 patients in Cebu. So, was the surge on May 7 because of a potential backlog?
3. Increase the number of accredited labs. Or use other methods to process samples. The Nationalist People’s Coalition was the first political party in the Philippines to make a stand with this issue. They issued a Resolution on April, 20, 2020, asking the IATF and the DOH to do the following:
a) “Fast-track the conduct of an effective, efficient, responsive and more inclusive mass testing of Filipinos for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in DOH-certified laboratories for COVID-19 testing.
b) Establish more labs to process samples and immediately release the results.
c) Clarify the guidelines for the LGUs to use their funds in the purchase of Rapid Test Kits pursuant to DOH guidelines and protocols.
d) Guarantee and afford to the public an accurate, opportune and transparent reporting of data and information related to the COVID-19 crisis.
4. Provide healthcare workers sufficient medical supplies to ensure their safety and health. Many in the medical community have died already. Several companies and individuals have taken the initiative to help here. San Miguel Corporation purchased thousands of PPEs and charted a plane to transport them to the Philippines, to be distributed to key hospitals in various provinces.
5. Do an inventory of those who died in recent months. In some other countries, some people exhibiting symptoms of the virus might have chosen to stay at home instead of going to the hospital for care. In the UK, their numbers shot up when they started to do an audit of those who died in the recent weeks and discovered many who died exhibited SARS-CoV-2 symptoms but chose home-care instead of going to the hospital.
6. Use technology to our advantage. Some have been pushing for an on-line tracking system. This should be explored further. Being informed is very important. So many seem to be unaware of the official numbers. One website which is an excellent source of information is: https://covid19stats.ph
The website, made and updated by Mikko Gozalo and his siblings, is a private initiative. I go to this website regularly to be update. You should, too.
STAY HOME. STAY SAFE. STAY HEALTHY.