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Editorial | Widespread testing

Since the first week of March, the clamor for widespread testing, especially among frontliners was raised, quickly turning to anger when people found that the scarce testing kits were utilized for the testing of government officials.

Although testing kits have arrived from China and South Korea, according to a press statement by the Department of Health (DOH) issued on Monday, the resources are still limited and it is not feasible to conduct mass testing for COVID 19.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the department could be missing half of the actual number of COVID 19 cases due to the limited testing capacity of the laboratories. He said in an intervew that since Sunday, they have tested 1,513 of which 380 tested positive, including 25 fatalities. He said the results for the 471 cases remain pending, while the rest tested negative. He concluded that there could be around 600 confirmed cases, based on the number of deaths.

The National Economic and Development Authority released a report Tuesday echoing the DOH view of testing. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that the “key to a successful medical response is widespread testing,”

The reason for this is that, according to Pernia “a patient who is diagnosed earlier could be given care to prevent secondary infections. Moreover, early diagnosis will lead to early initiation of quarantine procedures and, therefore, limit or prevent the spread of the virus,”

Because of the lack of test kits, DOH has prioritized testing for persons manifesting severe symptoms and have either traveled to a country with local transmission or have been exposed to a positive case, which is what is happening to our medical practitioners. And this is where trouble started.

So many reports of government executives and their staff being prioritized despite the already scarce test kits angered many. As we enter into an enhanced community quarantine, we can only hope that there will be less new cases reported. Still, widespread testing should be done.

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