Hontiveros hits gov’t task force for belated increase in COVID-19 tests

Published March 31, 2021, 6:58 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, March 31, scored the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 for supposedly heeding calls for increased testing “only now” that new variants of the novel coronavirus have spread in the country.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

In her statement, Hontiveros referred to the recommendation to use rapid antigen tests to massively screen cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in areas with high incidence of the infection.

On Tuesday, NTF deputy chief implementer and testing czar Vince Dizon said the government will ramp up COVID-19 testing to 90,000 tests daily due to the upsurge of confirmed cases.

He also said more antigen tests will be conducted in the “NCR Plus” bubble — Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, and Laguna — which were placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“I urge the NTF to be more vigilant. We have all the tools and information, but we keep on acting too late. This is what happened when we didn’t close our borders the first time, and again, when we failed to close them as the new variants started to spread,” Hontiveros said.

“Ngayon, sisisihin natin ang variants at mutations para lang pagtakpan ang mga pagkukulang natin (Now we will blame the variants and mutations so cover up our lapses)? Any public health expert will tell you that if the virus had been contained, walang magaganap na mutation,” she added.

“This is yet another example of gross mismanagement. Bakit ngayon lang naisipang pakinggan ‘yong recommendation  (Why did they listen to the recommendation only now)? I really hope no one is profiting from this,” the opposition senator lamented.

Hontiveros said authorities should have a “prevention mindset” to avoid crises from piling up. While noting the targeted 90,000 daily tests as a “good start”, she said it should “be the floor, not the target ceiling”.

She called on the NTF to come up with an “official and national mass testing system” so it can achieve its testing targets. 

“We need to increase the magnitude of testing and sustain the quality so that we do not post artificial improvement,” she said.

“The truth is we have no choice but to set high targets, and hit them. No ifs or buts. We cannot just say we will do more and better, we have to actually do it. We need to test more and sustain it so we can achieve a five percent or less positivity rate, until we complete the national vaccination program.”

“We can no longer fall short because the consequence is the disturbing outbreak we are facing and will continue to face,” Hontiveros further said.