Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the national policy on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), said about 98 percent of coronavirus cases in the world are asymptomatic or those that do not have symptoms and people who show mild symptoms, while only two percent are critical.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo, file
Government eyes testing of asymptomatic patients
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government is planning to expand its coronavirus testing to include people who have no symptoms, an official said yesterday.

Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the national policy on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), said about 98 percent of coronavirus cases in the world are asymptomatic or those that do not have symptoms and people who show mild symptoms, while only two percent are critical.

“During the previous months, we can only test our countrymen who manifest symptoms like fever, colds and coughs. Now, because of our huge capacity nationwide, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao, we can go beyond those with symptoms,” Dizon said in a press briefing.

“Our goal now for the expanded targeted testing should be to find and test the asymptomatic,” he added.

Dizon said the goal could be achieved by expanding targeted testing in communities, especially in densely populated areas like Metro Manila, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, Cebu, Davao and other big cities. He said targeted testing should also be conducted on frontliners who do not have symptoms.

“Our frontliners are not just the medical frontliners. They include frontliners with prolonged exposure to our countrymen daily, especially now that many areas in the Philippines are under MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) and GCQ (general community quarantine).

They include transport workers, law enforcers... guards in malls and offices and cashiers in stores and supermarkets,” Dizon said.

Dizon claimed the Philippines’ maximum testing capacity has reached 41,990.

He said the government aims to increase the testing capacity to 50,000 this month.

A total of 52 laboratories are conducting tests nationwide, 33 of them operated by the government and 19 owned by the private sector.

Health department data, however, showed that only 8,500 to 9,500 tests are being conducted daily despite claims of higher testing capacity.

“We really need to raise our actual testing...We can do it if we are aggressive and proactive in testing the asymptomatic,“ Dizon said.

The government is also decentralizing the arrivals of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) so they can be brought to their provinces immediately and only undergo quarantine once.

“That is part of the plan. We are increasing the testing capacity in provinces so we can bring home the OFWs to their provinces, where they can undergo swabbing and quarantine,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

Dizon said some OFWs would return to the country through Clark International Airport starting next week.

Other international airports would also be opened to facilitate the return of repatriated OFWs, he added.

Dizon said manning agencies have also been allowed to tap laboratories for the testing of migrant workers. Returning OFWs may also undergo tests in private hospitals so they can go home immediately after testing negative for the virus.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) should consider temporarily suspending payments to hospitals and testing centers related to COVID-19 tests until the new guidelines are implemented.

“I urge the PhilHealth to implement these new rates immediately and retroactively,” he said.

Drilon asked PhilHealth to submit a report to the Senate on the status of the payments on COVID-19 tests, including how much has been paid to hospitals and testing centers and how many claims are being processed using the old rates.

He said the PhilHealth downloaded P30 billion last March to its accredited hospitals, which is equivalent to three months’ worth of claims based on historical data, for COVID-related treatments.

Drilon said the government would save P9.48 billion from the new COVID-19 test package of PhilHealth. Drilon’s revelation of overpriced testing kits forced PhilHealth to lower the price from P8,150 to P3,409.

“I commend the PhilHealth leadership for lowering its COVID-19 test package. This is a victory for all the taxpayers. Our continued vigilance made this happen,” said Drilon in a statement Thursday.

“I am glad that we are able to help in averting a possible loss of P9.48 billion in public funds to the sticky fingers in PhilHealth and their cohorts,” he said. Cecille Suerte Felipe

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