Gov’t eyes price cap for COVID-19 tests

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    GOVERNMENT is inclined to impose a price cap on tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to ensure these will be more affordable and more people can eventually be tested, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

    Roque said an issuance regulating the prices of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests is awaiting the approval of President Duterte.

    “From all indications, mukha naman pong magkakaroon ng price cap (From all indications, it looks like there will be a price cap), he said.

    He said a technical working group tasked to look into the matter has completed its study and submitted its recommendations to Malacañang.

    Roque said there are some private establishments that have been charging high fees for the tests even if there are some government-operated and accredited institutions that offer the test for P1,500 to P2,000.

    The Department of Health recommended the price cap after it monitored that many laboratories offer different prices for COVID-19 tests.

    Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat recently supported calls to impose a price cap for the tests. Tourists are required to undergo the test before they are allowed entry to some travel destinations.

    Roque also reminded the public no vaccine for COVID-19 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

    He issued the statement amid reports that supposed vaccines are being sold for P50,000 per dose.

    He warned those selling medicines, which have not been approved by the DFA, of penalties like imprisonment.

    Several countries are still conducting trials of their candidate vaccines, including China which has reportedly started using its vaccines on its frontliners.

    China has committed to prioritize the Philippines in the distribution of the vaccine once it becomes available.

    Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution urging Malacañang to support an international campaign to ease intellectual property (IP) agreements to ensure universal access to affordable and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

    She was referring to the proposal of India and South Africa for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to suspend the implementation, application and enforcement of provisions under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the COVID-19 vaccine.

    In Senate Resolution No. 560, Hontiveros said developing countries are in dire need of funds for social services and essential expenditures for employment, health and education, “but will also need to realign their national budget to procure a vaccine.”

    “Every country wants to rise from this pandemic. Waiving IP-based restrictions and increasing global collaboration for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine will allow us to come closer as a global community and fight this disease with the shared belief that every life, no matter where, is worth protecting,” she said. — With Raymond Africa