Tag Archives: Mass Testing

[Statement] WORKERS ARE NOT VIRUS-PROOF! Advocacy groups call for expanded massive testing before economic restart -PAHRA, iDEFEND, #MassTestingNowPH

WORKERS ARE NOT VIRUS-PROOF
Advocacy groups call for expanded massive testing before the economic restart

As the nation commemorates Labor Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists, artists, youth, human rights, public health, and citizen groups join forces with the labor sector to demand the increase and expansion of mass testing capacities of the country before lifting the enhanced community quarantine protocols and reopening the economy. The government and business groups have been keen to start economic activities the soonest to save the country from further economic meltdown. However, civil society groups have expressed their concern over the risks of this move and the need to address the public’s fear and panic with the possible lifting of the ECQ for the interest of the business.

Molecular biologist Joshua Danac of Scientists Unite Against COVID-19 (SUAC-19) cited the poor execution of mass testing in the country. “There are still massive backlogs in testing centers, and results take very long to be released. The Department of Health has failed to attain its initial stated target of 8,000 tests per day.” Since the government’s declaration on the start of mass testing on April 14, Danac pointed out that there are only 19 accredited testing centers in the whole country as of April 30, with around 50 percent of those centers based in NCR alone.

Danac further said, “The actual testing capacity of our country still lags behind because laboratories and personnel have not been capacitated in the first place. For massive testing not to fail, we must ask the government to be transparent and to act on the following issues: how will capacity be increased to clear the backlogs and shorten turnaround times? How will they increase the number of tests done per day? What about funding — will the government dedicate part of its budget for increasing testing capacity by buying equipment and hiring personnel?”

Meanwhile, human rights-based health service organization Medical Action Group (MAG) pointed out that aside from incapacitated testing centers and personnel, a public health and rights-based approach was not initiated by the government as well. According to MAG Executive Director Edel Hernandez, “The lack of diagnostics and cure for COVID-19 underscores the need for the government to scale up the mass testing using international standards, protecting the health of frontliners, and improving the delivery of healthcare services around the country. Inaction on the part of the government is a disservice to the nation. The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly creating a climate of fear and panic through restrictive, stigmatizing, and punitive measures imposed by the government as infectious disease control.” MAG urged the government to veer away from compulsory restrictions towards a human rights-based approach, centered on evidence-based response and promoting community empowerment and engagement.

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) emphasized the demand for the government to take a human rights-based approach in tackling the COVID-19 situation in the country. According to PAHRA, while mass testing is an important step to address the public health crisis, the government must also address the social impact of the community lockdown. It pointed out that the basic human rights of workers especially their safety and security should be guaranteed by the government, not neglected. PAHRA Secretary General Rose Trajano said, “Testing, continuing assistance, and security of work are the basic human rights that should be effectively addressed by the government. Though certain limitations on fundamental rights and freedoms are unavoidable during public health emergencies, any disproportionate response can definitely lead to significant human rights violations. It amplifies the already underlying barriers that people face in protecting their health and their inability to meet basic survival needs.” Recent news reports and viral social media posts have shown arbitrary arrests and ill treatment by law enforcers to people who have breached quarantine restrictions.

With the government preparing to loosen the lockdown by May 15, the artist-activist collective DAKILA criticized plans of the government to reopen the economy without providing proper safety nets to the labor sector and the poor. Conglomerates and major business owners earlier announced Project ARK, a joint initiative to conduct massive testing on workers using rapid antibody test kits to help them assess who is fit to return to work. Medical experts have warned against the use of antibody test kits as diagnostic tools due to their tendency to display ‘false negative’ results. DAKILA spokesperson Leni Velasco said, “The return of work operations around the country is essential for the economy to run again, but to facilitate that using unreliable means will put workers into danger. The move to use to rapid antibody tests for mass screening for COVID19 will only give workers a false sense of security and run the risk of spreading the virus in the workplace — leading to a second wave of infection that our public health system won’t survive.”

DAKILA also slammed the recent statement of the Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion saying that the workers and the poor are more resilient to the virus and should be separated from those who are healthy through isolation. The statement, they pointed out, is a gross manifestation of the unjust treatment of the working poor, as well as businesses’ lack of value for laborers. “Workers and the poor are NOT virus-proof. They remain one of the most vulnerable sectors in this pandemic. In any situation, their lives must never be put in danger; it must be protected at all times. We can’t restart the economy at the expense of workers’ safety,” Velasco ended.

In line with this demand, a group of volunteers who started the campaign on mass testing named #MassTestingNowPH calls on the government to strengthen the Test-Treat-Trace approach in addressing the pandemic. The campaign urges business owners to use rRT-PCR testing to assist the return of employees to work after community quarantine protocols are lifted and they call for workers to demand the same. “Only through expanded RT-PCR testing can we have an accurate picture of the COVID-19 infection in the country. This should serve as the basis for any government decisions and actions. We should strengthen our call for mass testing, contact tracing, isolation, and treatment along with the continued provision of health and socio-economic assistance to our people,” #MassTestingNowPH said.

DAKILA, PAHRA, MAG, SUAC, and #MassTestingNowPH expressed their social solidarity with the Filipino working class which for the first time in Philippine history held Labor Day 2020 protest online in the context of the pandemic. In its unity statement, the groups said, “While the economy should be saved from further decline, it is by protecting and safeguarding the workers that can ensure the continuing lifeline of the economy. The working people are not virus proof and yet like the health workers, the government is sending them out like sacrifical lambs in this pandemic.”

The groups committed to intensifying the #MassTestingNowPH campaign until laboratories and personnel are capacitated, massive RRT-PCR-based testing is conducted, public health and rights-based approach are adopted by the government and the business sector, and the safety of workers are not put in danger amidst the desire to restart the economy.

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.

[Video] #MassTestingHOW The Challenges of Mass Testing in Curbing the COVID-19 Pandemic -iDEFEND & PAHRA

#MassTestingHOW
The Challenges of Mass Testing in Curbing the COVID-19 Pandemic
iDEFEND

April 23, 2020
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Organized by: In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity (I-DEFEND), LAPIS, Scientists Unite Against COVID-19, #MassTestingNowPH and DAKILA,

Joshua Miguel Danac
BSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, UPD-NIMBB
Scientists Unite Against COVID-19

Edel Hernandez
Executive Director
Medical Action Group

Atty. Camille Maranan
BSc MBB, UPD-NIMBB and Juris Doctor, College of Law UP Diliman
Chevening Scholar, Queen Mary University of London

Sharon Yvette Angelina Villanueva
Professor
Department of Medical Microbiology, College of Public Health, UP Manila

Moderator: Stephanie Marie Tan
Board of Director
DAKILA – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.

[From the web] De Lima on mass testing for COVID-19: What is taking us so long?

DOJ Sec. Leila De Lima File photo: pinoymagazine.com

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima slams health authorities for delaying the implementation of national testing for COVID-19 even after admitting that they are in possession of thousands of test kits, both purchased and received from foreign donors.

De Lima also joins the calls of several groups and personalities who are petitioning the government to immediately start mass testing in highly-populated areas, especially to cities or municipalities with widespread poverty and vulnerable societies.

“Ilan pa ba sa ating mga kababayan – mga health workers, frontliners, PUIs, PUMs, at mamamayang bulnerable, gaya ng mga matatanda at may malulubhang karamdaman – ang mamamatay na lamang bago pa matiyak na may COVID-19 sila at mabigyan ng karampatang gamutan?” she asks.

“Kailan pa natin masisiguro ang kaligtasan ng lahat mula sa posibleng pagkakahawa sa mga hindi nagpapakita ng sintomas, ngunit nagdadala ng virus? Kailan pa ba natin balak kumilos, kapag madami na ang namatay?” she added.

Scientists, health groups, youth organizations, politicians and prominent personalities, among others, have raised concerns on why the Department of Health (DOH) has repeatedly downplayed the importance of widespread testing.

Even the World Health Organization have repeatedly urged countries to “test, test, test”, emphasizing the need of a clearer picture of the extent of the pandemic in the country for a more focused response to mitigate the virus’ effects.

The health department also claimed that they are still waiting for the accreditation of more laboratories capable of testing multiple samples at a time, across the country.

“Day by day, we learn that the total no. of confirmed cases reportedly increases, yet we cannot be certain of the accuracy of these figures. Even DOH Secretary Duque admitted that they could be missing half of the actual totality of COVID-19 cases in the country,” De Lima said.

“It’s as if you are trying to conceal the real numbers – the question is why? To lessen the panic, or to feed your bruised ego?”, she added.

As of March 26, official numbers indicate that there are 707 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 45 fatalities. However, experts believe that the estimates are not consistent with global data due to the limited number of tests conducted in the country.

Despite having announced that almost 7,000 persons are considered as PUIs (Persons under Investigation) and PUMs (Persons under Monitoring), the DOH have only conducted less than 2,000 tests.

“What is taking us so long? Figuring out how to conduct mass testing for its citizens should be high on the government’s priority list if we are to make it through this pandemic,” the lady Senator from Bicol said.

“The sooner we identify who are afflicted with this virus, the sooner we can isolate them and get them treated. Conversely, the more we wait the more resources we waste. The more resources we waste, the more people will be infected and inevitably die from this pandemic,” she added.

To address the gap, De Lima recommended that both the national government and local government units (LGU) should divide the responsibility of mass testing, indicating that most local officials are capable and willing to shoulder the burden.

“The local government can do preliminary testing while the national government reserves the right to undertake final confirmatory tests. In doing so, the whole of government will be able to perform their duties in harmony,” she said.

“I strongly urge the DOH to strongly consider issuing temporary accreditation credentials and grant them limited testing capabilities. This will not only decongest other accredited laboratories to screen tests but will speed up the release of results and cover the bigger population waiting to get tested,” she added.

After the announcement of the lockdown, initially in the National Capital Region and later the whole island of Luzon, citizens have observed that local officials outshined their national counterparts in implementing measures to limit the spread of the virus.

The DOH also received backlash after reports exposed that high-ranking government officials who requested for COVID-19 testing were granted preferential treatment, while other patients with much severe symptoms, were left for weeks on a waiting list.

De Lima on mass testing for COVID-19: What is taking us so long?

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.