Without mass testing, we cannot defeat Covid-19


From the outset, the World Health Organization (WHO) pushed for mass testing as the key to defeating Covid-19. Its officials said, “we cannot fight fire with blindfolds on.” Mass testing must be used expeditiously to determine where the virus is spreading in order to break its transmission. Until there is no vaccine, this is the strategy which the WHO favors more than “physical distancing,” of separating people from each other which results in more economic and health problems.

Thus, Malacañang’s admission that it has no mass testing program caused widespread people’s outrage. Malacañang even twitted mass testing as a “wrong term” because it claims it is impossible to test everyone. For two months, Duterte destroyed the economy and drove people into the hunger and poverty without exerting any effort to strengthen the government’s capacity for mass testing.

Its April 30 target of 8,000 daily tests was achieved only in mid-May. It claims this will be ramped up to 30,000 before the end of May, but according to the DOH’s May 17 data, it has not yet reached 10,000 daily. There are only 30 laboratories. These are choking because of the large number of tests. Because of its slow pace, more than 25,000 Filipino migrants were stuck in Manila Bay for almost a month waiting for their test results.

All in all, only 170,027 individual have been tested, or 0.15% of the Philippine population (or 1,546 per million. This is far from the recommendation of testing 2% of the population. This is small compared to the 2,681 tests per million in Vietnam, and 14,691 tests per million in South Korea.

At least 2.2 million individuals would have to be tested in the country within a short period of time. Even with the end-May target capacity, it will still take 70 more days to complete this. At this pace, the country will fail to keep in step with the spread of the virus.

Without mass testing, we cannot defeat Covid-19