By Genalyn Kabiling
In stepping the drive to stem the coronavirus outbreak, the government is eyeing a P10-billion subsidy program for its expanded testing efforts and another P15 billion for cash-for-work program, possibly for the hiring of contact tracers.
The fund allocation will be included in the proposed Bayanihan II law in a bid to sustain the government’s efforts to test, trace and treat patients with the coronavirus, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
Roque said expanded testing strategy is “crucial to boost confidence, get people back to work, and restore consumption demand.” Testing for the coronavirus is likewise important to avoid the more expensive treatment.
“Bagama’t mahal ang testing, mga minimum of 3 thousand iyan, mas mura pa rin po iyan kaysa magpagamot. Kasi kapag ikaw po ay nagkasakit at kritikal ang iyong sakit, aabot ng halos 800,000 ang gagastusin. So hayaan mo nang gumastos ng mga 3 thousand pesos para sa PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing (Although testing is expensive, around a minimum of P3,000, it is still cheaper than getting treatment. If you get critically ill, the treatment cost may reach P800,000. So it’s better to spend P3,000 for PCR testing),” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“Tapos saan natin kukunin ang pondo? Well sa pino-propose po na Bayanihan 2, mayroon po tayong pino-propose na testing subsidy diyan hanggang mga 10 bilyon (And where will we get the funds? Well, we have proposed a testing subsidy of up to P10 billion in the Bayanihan 2,” he said.
Roque said the government has also proposed an allocation of P15 billion for the cash-for-work program. The amount can be used to hire the needed 50,000 contact tracers.
He explained that accelerating the testing efforts is among the government measures to balance the need to address public health while helping revive the local economy.
The Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved “in principle” the further expansion of testing strategy to cover more segments of the population during a meeting last Monday.
Expanded testing in hotspots, border crossing, return-to-work
According to Roque, testing may be conducted in hotspot areas or barangays under lockdown and informal settlements. This will be conducted once when the risk of outbreak is announced.
Testing will also be expanded to cover overseas Filipinos, local stranded individuals, inter-island travelers from hotspot areas before crossing the country’s borders.
A testing program for people returning to work will also be pursued by the government. Among those covered are those working in transport and logistics, security and sanitation, education, food and non-food retail, services and market vendors. The coronavirus tests will be done before they return to work. Testing will consequently be implemented every quarter.
Roque said they also hope to accelerate the country’s testing capacity by end of July to attain a positivity rate of 3 percent.
As of June 29, the country has recorded 36,438 cases of coronavirus with 9,956 recoveries and 1,255 deaths.
In his latest report to Congress, President Duterte said a total of 647,804 tests have been conducted on 596,058 individuals as of June 24. The average daily tests is 14,694 from June 18 to 24. The country has so far 68 active testing laboratories.