The Visayas Primary Healthcare Services, Inc. supports House Bill No. 6848 or the “Free Mass Testing Act of 2020” filed by the Makabayan bloc lawmakers.
The bill mandates free mass testing for persons considered “suspects” for COVID-19 infection, as well as close contacts of probable and confirmed cases, high-risk communities, health workers, and other vulnerable sectors. It will therefore seek to know the extent of COVID-19 transmission and infection in the country.
The authors of the bill believe that the government will therefore be equipped with essential data to address the pandemic.
The proposed bill mandates the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to create a COVID-19 Mass Testing Plan in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH). The DOH is likewise tasked to ensure the establishment and accreditation of public testing centers and trained personnel in every region which would facilitate the demand for mass testing. Further, the DOH and its Epidemiology Bureau, in coordination with local government units (LGUs), shall also determine the areas or clusters for the sampling and subsequent testing of the Philippine population or epidemiological testing.
The following persons are covered by the bill, namely: suspect cases, close contacts of confirmed and probable cases, health workers, and other vulnerable sectors (symptomatic patients aged 60 years old and above, patients with comorbid illness regardless of age, pregnant women, returning overseas Filipino workers, other frontline workers, other groups determined by the Department of Health).
The bill also provides that in areas that are high-risk for community transmission, surveillance testing will be done which means that a representative sample of the barangay and adjacent barangays shall be tested.
Those returning to work, whether in the public or private sector, shall be assessed by an occupational health practitioner, with those assessed as suspect cases required to be tested, according to the bill. The same applies to students, teachers, and non-teaching personnel who shall be assessed by a school health practitioner or a city or municipal health officer.
The VPHCS said that the right to health of the Filipino must include better testing, contact tracing, and more appropriate medical and societal approaches to COVID-19.