A National Task Force official against COVID-19 said Monday that the government targets to conduct 10 million tests in the next eight to 10 months.
“[Now] that we have the labs, we have now 68 labs, we have the capacity, we have the supplies, we should, and we can now expand [testing] to other segments of the population that are important, that need to be tested,” said NTF Deputy Chief Implementer and testing czar Vince Dizon to CNN Philippines.
The government would specifically expand the COVID-19 tests to on-medical front liners and those working in critical economic zones.
Under the initial guidelines, the government only prioritized health workers and patients with severe or critical and mild symptoms and the vulnerable populations for RT-PCR testing.
Dizon said the expanded testing would include police officers, soldiers, supermarket workers, sari-sari store vendors, and street vendors as some of the non-medical front liners.
The Deputy Chief added that “those [working] in manufacturing, in our factories, those that work in economic zones and those that work in sectors that are very important like…the [business processing outsourcing] BPO sector” would also be prioritized for testing.
“The idea now is we have to shift the strategy to manage COVID-19 and keep the economy open and working in order to make sure that we are able to bounce back from the contraction that we experienced in the first quarter and definitely in the second quarter.”
Last week, Dizon said the government was targeting 2% of the country’s population, but his new announcement of 10 million increases that percentage to about 9%.
“You cannot test 10 million in a few weeks or few months, no? It’s just not possible. What we need to do is, given the capacity that we have, we have to program our testing in a smart way with the end objective of keeping the economy open. That is the goal now, we have to manage it.”
He admitted that expansion in testing targets is late since most parts of the country already shifted to general community quarantine (GCQ) or an even looser modified GCQ.
“Definitely late, however, we were faced with so many constraints in the past which are only starting to be resolved in the past couple of weeks or even days. First of all, our supplies for testing just arrived, our bulk supplies just arrived on June 21, and they will continue to arrive every week after June 21, and this was really the major stumbling block,” Dizon said.