By Ben Rosario
Warning that at least 40-50 percent of Covid 19 cases are asymptomatic and may cause a new and more dangerous wave of public infection, former Health Secretary and now House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Janette Garin urged government to implement its Test, Test, Test program by providing subsidies that would allow more Filipinos to access reliable baseline polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests.
In a privilege speech on Monday (May 11), Garin presented House Bill (HB) No. 6707 or the Crushing COVID Act that seeks to sustain government’s gains in the initial lockdown, attempt to halt coronavirus transmission, and reduce mortality.
Garin said there remains a grave danger of a second COVID-19 round as she noted that studies reveal that 40 to 50 percent of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic.
“This allows [the] silent yet continuous spread of the virus,” she warned.
The former health official added that studies also indicate that infected persons may become infectious two days before the onset of symptoms or “even without symptoms at all.”
“To unmask them, they should be identified before it could further spread widely, silently, causing more suffering, death, and economic decline,” Garin said.
“While people gradually enter the new normal, equipped with the knowledge of personal hygiene and physical distancing, the fact remains that our present failure to TEST, TEST, TEST, has left the virus lurking and preparing to attack once again,” she said.
In her bill, a COVID Testing Assistance Fund (CTAF) was proposed to make available subsidy assistance ranging from P1,700 to P1,800 to finance PCR tests for persons belonging to the priority and vulnerable sectors.
Garin also sought the grant of emergency pandemic leave for persons who test positive for COVID-19 for them to undergo immediate isolation and quarantine within a period to be determined by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
Primary in the bill is the establishment of protocols on the conduct of baseline PCR testing and the guarantee that COVID testing centers are able to provide “available, affordable, and accessible” service to Filipinos.
Included among the vulnerable members of society are those returning to work with co-morbidities and Filipinos and foreign nationals arriving in the country from trips abroad.
Garin clarified that foreign nationals will shoulder their own test expenses.
Also included in the priority list are health care workers, sales personnel in public markets, groceries, and supermarkets, food handlers, factory workers, construction workers, security guards, drivers, banks and transfer fund facilities personnel, laundry shop workers, house helpers, caregivers, pregnant women, embalmers, wellness and salon workers, uniformed personnel, media persons, barangay health workers, and family members whose household has a dweller who went abroad from December 2019 until the present.