Free antigen test for Filipinos in areas with high COVID cases eyed

A ranking official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is pushing for free antigen tests for all Filipinos, especially in areas with high infection rate, amid the fears brought by the exponential growth of coronavirus cases (COVID-19) cases in the country.

“Yan ang ipu-push namin ng husto ngayon, na mai-libre ‘yung testing ano na ‘yan, ‘yung antigen. I will make sure na paparatingin ko sa Inter-Agency Task Force ‘yan (We will push hard for the free antigen testing. I will make sure to bring it up with the Inter-Agency Task Force),’’ DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Operations Martin Diño said in a GMA News report Sunday night, Jan 9.

Diño noted that the government is looking into the possibility of allowing home antigen testing with the Department of Health (DOH).

The DOH is set to release the guidelines for home antigen by next week.

Diño stated that price or demand for antigen testing kit will likely increase in the coming days saying that it is less costly compared to the RT-PCR and other COVID-19 tests. With the COVID-19 spike, he called on the public to take advantage of the free COVID-19 tests offered in various government hospitals.

On Jan 9, the country recorded the highest COVID-19 case for a single day of 28,707 new infections bringing the total tally to 2,965,447 with the active cases now over 128,000.

But the Department of Health (DOH) on Jan. 7 insisted that the government will not resort to mass testing despite the COVID-19 surge claiming that it is not rational and science-based.

DOH Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said it is recognized that the country’s resources are scarce to mount an aggressive mass testing.

In another GMA News, Vice President Leni Robredo insisted that the government should allocate a budget for free mass testing with the rapid upswing of the for COVID-19 infection in the country.

Disagreeing with the DOH’s stance, Robredo pointed out that there are lots of people infected with the virus who are asymptomatic or who are unaware that they got the infection stressing that testing is important to determine if one should undergo quarantine or isolation. (Chito A. Chavez)