Locked Down in Fear: The Must in Mass Testing

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Evening news are filled with reports of the worsening novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic. 

To what seems an eyesore to many, especially amidst dinner, is a tragic turn of events for the families of the infected. These past few weeks have been surreal, not only in our nation but the entire world. 

The government put into effect measures as a mitigation strategy to control the further spread of COVID-19 — social distancing and community quarantines. Social distancing is a health tactic to prevent transmission but we were able to witness the gap that separated the rich from the poor. The Luzon-wide community quarantine was aimed to keep people inside their homes yet the boredom for the privileged, looking for Netflix series to binge or daydreaming about the next beach trip after the quarantine, is death to the poor as they struggle to survive with scarce food and basic needs. 

These measures, although deemed necessary by the World Health Organization (WHO), lose their prime purpose when containment is not implemented. The containment phase aims to prevent the virus from spreading for as long as possible by detecting early cases and establishing who the infected person has come in contact with. 

The WHO Director General said in a briefing, “You cannot fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.” 

One of the first dilemmas the nation faced was the lack of testing kits but weeks after the COVID-19 strain was released, UP scientists developed their own testing kit which is 11 times faster and 6 times cheaper than imported ones. Many foreign nations donated test kits as well, but the Food and Drug Association lack of approval is another obstacle. 

Despite this, politicians and VIPs take the priority lane and request health facilities to conduct tests even when asymptomatic. While this “palakasan system” serve the VIPs, those who are in dire need such as PUIs and PUMs await last in line. 

Despite being locked inside our homes, we still see reports on the climbing numbers of positive COVID-19 cases. Why? because those who need to get tested are not being tested.  Free mass testing is key in the fight against this invisible enemy. It is not what others think of as testing our entire population of 100 million but instead it is a program that aims to provide tests to the frontliners, vulnerable communities, and those at “high-risk” of getting infected. 

This also entails to allow health workers to know the greater scope of the virus and locate infection hotspots that even citizens are oblivious about. Free mass testing is the route South Korea took in engaging with the virus, not through lockdowns. They were able to create the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world. With 270,000 people tested, they made efforts in isolating the infected, tracing contacts, and putting them into quarantine as well. 

The government’s ill neglect from the first case of COVID-19 in the country until now with half a thousand infected, unravels their incompetence and wrong set of priorities. The anxiety and terror caused by this epidemic both contagious as the virus itself. Despite this, we must collectively act as one to combat this unseen but deadly enemy. We must fight for the right of the Filipino people to be protected, treated equitably, and have accessible healthcare. 

(Klenia Ern Mendiola is Features Editor of Angelite. iOrbitNews welcomes feature stories, contributions and photos. – Editor)