Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday appealed for free RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for locally-stranded individuals before they are sent home.
The LSIs, he said, should also be treated as VIPs, or “very important passengers” and have them avail of the COVID-19 swab tests before they are transported back to their home provinces.
“These ‘VIPs’ are entitled to the same gold standard of testing, more so that they’ve been lodged in a place that will check all the boxes in the list of a possible outbreak spot,” said Recto.
Recto was commenting on the thousands of LSIs crammed at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, brushing aside physical distancing protocols while they wait for their turn to be brought home under the government’s “Hatid Tulong” program.
“If we have tested for free those who’ve been on strict quarantine because they’re going to listen to a speech, then all the more we should test exposed individuals who are going home to their loved ones,” he said, referring to the RT-PCR tests conducted for lawmakers and attendees of President Duterte’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“May karapatan din sa peace of mind ang mga komunidad na naghihintay sa kanilang pagdating (Those who have been waiting for them in their communities also have the right to peace of mind),” he pointed out.
Recto said the PCR tests will also help prevent the entry and spread of the novel coronavirus in local government units.
“A swab test will ensure that the coronavirus will not be hitchhiking to family reunions. Those positive will be flagged from boarding. And spare understaffed and underfunded LGUs and local hospitals from handling a ‘pasa load’ from the national government,” he said.
“Kung ngayon, bawal magtransport ng baboy dahil sa ASF at kailangan may certificate na ligtas ang mga ito, tao pa kaya?” he also noted.
While saying that he was also “painfully aware” of the shortage on test kits, he lamented the plight of LSIs who have been stranded for months or have resorted to sleeping on streets.
Recto said he will defer to the Interagency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases to study and consider the call.
Under the Hatid Tulong program, the LSIs must undergo rapid test for COVID-19 and secure medical clearance and travel authority before being allowed to depart going to their provinces.
Reports said at least 20 LSIs in the Rizal Stadium have tested positive for antibodies in the rapid tests.