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Philippines includes asymptomatic individuals in COVID-19 testing

People who do not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms are now included in the government’s expanded testing program, Malacañang said Friday.

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.

Aside from asymptomatic individuals, Roque said other frontliners including media personnel may be covered by the new policy.

“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 said in a televised briefing.

Previously, only individuals with COVID-19 symptoms such as fever and difficulty breathing, and those with exposure to COVID-19 patients as well as Filipinos returning to the country were subjected to mandatory tests.

Roque’s announcement comes after 11 individuals representing various sectors on Friday asked the Supreme Court to order the government to conduct free mass testing for COVID-19.

Assisted by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, the petitioners asked 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.

As of June 30, the Philippines had tested 681,667 individuals, according to government data.

NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said on Monday 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. — RSJ, GMA News