Today, July 3, Malacañang said that people who do not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms are now included in the government’s expanded testing program. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government’s COVID-19 task force approved the measure following the procurement of 10 million RT-PCR test kits by the Department of Health and the Department of Budget and Management.
“Approved na po na we will test beyond those who are symptomatic pero antayin po natin ang actual guidelines na i-issue ng NTF [National Task Force Against COVID-19] at ng Department of Health,” Roque mentioned in a televised briefing.
Petition for free mass testing
Aside from asymptomatic individuals, other frontliners including media personnel may be covered by the new policy. The said announcement comes after 11 individuals representing various sectors asked the Supreme Court to order the government to conduct free mass testing for COVID-19.
They were backed up by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in asking the court to ramp up contact tracing and rapid containment and improve laboratory testing capacity.
“The omission of proactive and efficient mass testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a systemic and normalized violation of the right to health engenders the impairment of other human rights and liberties, such as the rights to travel, livelihood or work, education, and access to justice,” they said in a petition.
Prior to this new policy, people with COVID-19 symptoms such as fever and difficulty breathing are being prioritized. Moreover, those with exposure to COVID-19 patients as well as Filipinos returning to the country were subjected to mandatory tests.
As of June 30, the Philippines had tested 681,667 individuals, according to government data.
Meanwhile, NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said that the government aims to test 10 million Filipinos in the next eight to 10 months.
The Philippines has so far reported 38,805 COVID-19 cases, with 10,673 recoveries and 1,274 deaths.