Nearly 100 persons connected with the House of Representatives tested positive for COVID-19 following the conduct of the first mass testing in the chamber since the pandemic started last March.
House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said the result of the mass testing conducted after the regular session resumed has prompted the leadership to order stricter health and safety protocols in the chamber.
Regular sessions will not be affected by the discovery of 98 individuals who haveCOVID 19 in the Lower House.
Mendoza said the number represents five percent of the 2,000 lawmakers and employees who underwent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing since Nov. 10.
Currently, antigen COVID-19 tests are being conducted for employees and congressmen attending official functions in the chamber.
Before the November break, at least 86 persons, including several congressmen, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Five have died, two of them House members.
“It’s the first time a mass testing was conducted in the House since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, and this happened less than one month after Speaker Velasco assumed office,” Mendoza pointed out.
“Speaker Velasco ordered the mass testing to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the Batasan Complex, while the legislative chamber carries out its constitutional duties amid the pandemic,” he added.
According to Mendoza, almost all COVID-19 positive cases were asymptomatic. “All those who tested positive were directed to self-isolate to avoid passing the virus to others and immediate tracing of their close contacts was conducted,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza, a former congressman, said the House is now coordinating with the Quezon City government for the conduct of a more extensive contract tracing.
He also said the testing laboratory commissioned by the House has reported the cases to the Department of Health, while the chamber’s in-house medical service made proper coordination with concerned Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams.
Almost all of them have recovered, except for two lawmakers and three employees who succumbed to the disease.
Mendoza said the increase in COVID-19 cases was expected since the testing covered everyone in the House, not just those with symptoms.
“Because it was mass testing for all officials, employees and guests entering the Batasan Complex, we caught even the asymptomatic cases who could be transmitters if we didn’t find out they were COVID positive,” Mendoza explained.
He said all House members and employees reporting for work were required to undergo RT-PCR test with Speaker Velasco taking the lead by having himself tested at the chamber’s own testing facility last Nov. 10.