Gov’t aims to test 10 million Filipinos for COVID-19 within 8 to 10 months

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29)— The Philippine government aims to test around 10 million citizens for COVID-19 in less than a year, COVID-19 Response Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon said Monday.

“Given the supplies coming in, given our increased capacity to test and screen, our goal is to test 10 million Filipinos… We’re looking at (within) the next 8 to 10 months,” Dizon told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

In a previous briefing, the testing czar noted that authorities have set the goal of testing one million people by the end of July. National government data as of last week showed the country has already conducted over 600,000 coronavirus tests.

Dizon added officials will be also recommending the expansion of the Health Department’s testing protocols to include non-medical frontliners-- including policemen, soldiers, supermarket personnel, and even street vendors.

He cited the need to test these individuals, as they are some of the “most susceptible” to the viral disease, and can potentially be some of the biggest spreaders to the wider population.

Apart from this sector, Dizon added they’re also pushing to test employees coming back to work amid relaxed lockdown restrictions— including those working in the business process outsourcing industry and factories.

“The idea now is we have to shift the strategy in order to manage COVID-19 and keep the economy working, in order to make sure we can bounce back from the (contraction) we experienced in the first quarter,” Dizon added.

Malacañang earlier revealed that the country is aiming to cover 1.5 to 2 percent of its almost 110 million population for the COVID-19 tests, following the example of model nations, including South Korea.

Calls for mass or targeted testing have surfaced since March, when the coronavirus infections in the Philippines started to spike. Officials have argued that ramping up testing is the first step in the isolation and containment of the mysterious virus.

Cases of the infectious disease in the country have meanwhile surpassed 35,000, as of the Health Department’s latest record.