Palace: Government can’t afford to test all Filipinos for COVID-19

The Philippines can’t afford to test every Filipino for the novel coronavirus, Malacañang admitted on Tuesday, July 21.

“If we can afford it, why not? But the reality is, hindi natin maa-afford ang testing sa lahat ng 110 million Filipinos (We cannot afford testing for all 110 million Filipinos),” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“Pero gagawa po ng hakbang ang ating gobyerno para mas maparami ang testing natin (But our government will take steps to increase our testing),” he added.

Roque earlier said that the government is exploring the idea of pooled testing to further maximize its remaining test kits.

“We are considering what is called pooled testing, wherein you use one kit to conduct swab tests for 10 people,” he announced Monday, July 20.

With pooled testing, swab samples of multiple individuals will be put into a single reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

If the swab tests come back negative, individual testing will not be needed. However, if the results return positive, each individual will be tested separately for the virus.

“Easily, 25 million people can be tested using pooled testing at ‘yan na po ang hakbang na ginagawa ng gobyerno dahil alam natin na ‘pag na-test at nahanap natin sino ang may COVID-19 pupwede na sila i-isolate nang hindi na makahawa (And that is the step that the government is taking because we know that when we test and find out who has COVID-19, they can be isolated without infecting more people),” Roque said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, for his part, noted that “no country can do that,” referring to mass testing.

“Wala pong bansa ang nakakagawa nito kahit na po ang pinakamayaman katulad ng United States of America (No country can do this, not even the richest ones like the United States of America),” he said Tuesday.

According to him, the government may be able to test 1% of an estimated population of 109 million by 2021.

As of press time, there are 72,269 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, with 1,843 fatalities and 23,623 recoveries.

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