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Roque: Govt won’t pay for mass testing of private employees

Citing lack of resources, Malacañang said Monday the government will not shoulder the costs of mass testing for COVID-19 to employees amid the eased quarantine measures which allowed people to go back to work.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the response amid calls for mass testing and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III saying that workers need not be tested for COVID-19 before allowing them to report back to work, unless they show COVID-19 symptoms.

“In an ideal world, dapat lahat ng tao, ma-test [for COVID-19]. Pero ang RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing laboratories natin ay 30 pa lang. Eh dapat, di bababa sa 90. Nagkakaubusan rin ng rapid test kits,” Roque said.

“Alam ko ito for a fact. Sa China, hindi na rin sila naglalabas ng rapid test kits kasi sa Wuhan, 11 million ang gusto nilang i test. Ang US naman po, binibili lahat ng test kits na available. Kaya pahirapan po talaga kaya po private sector na ang bahala bumili para sa mga empleyado,” Roque added.

Roque’s position was contrary to the call of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) which said on Monday that the government should provide for COVID-19 mass testing for private employees as most businesses do not have the capacity to finance having their workforce tested.

“Ini-increase pa po natin ang ating testing capacity to 30,000 [a day by May 30]….kaya wala pong ganyang programa (mass testing) ang gobyerno. Kaya iniiwan po natin yan sa pribadong sektor,” Roque said.

Likewise, Presidential adviser Joey Concepcion also said three days ago that employees should be tested frequently because “it is the only way you can open the economy without the fear of resurgence of the COVID-19 virus.”

Under the Department of Health’s (DOH) protocol, COVID-19 test are only required for symptomatic people.

DOH also prefers conduct of RT-PCR test which is more reliable than the rapid test kits which only tests if a person is positive for IgM or IgG.

Testing positive for IgM is a sign of active COVID-19 infection while having IgG indicates that a person has recently recovered.

At least 50 to 75% of the workforce are already allowed to go back to work in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine  (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ) areas, respectively, since May 16 after Luzon was placed under ECQ last March 16.

Under ECQ, mass transport is prohibited and only workers in essential industries such as food, health and pharmacies are allowed to go to work. This measure has stopped work in many industries, reducing people’s incomes.

Mass transport remains banned under MECQ areas which include the National Capital Region and its nearby provinces, among others.

The Philippines has recorded 12,513 COVID-19 cases thus far. Of this number, 2,635 have recovered while 824 died. — RSJ, GMA News