`We all should follow the minimum health protocols and try to survive this pandemic until the vaccine is available for us.’
A SINGAPORE newspaper ran an article saying that the Philippines is “likely to become Southeast Asia’s coronavirus hot spot.” Vince Dizon, the testing czar of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) which is mandated to control the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in the country, is not amused.
Dizon told reporters that since the government is continuously conducting various tests among the population, it has been uncovering more and more cases of COVID-19. This is the logical conclusion of expanding the nation’s testing capacity, along with the contact tracing activities and the efforts to herd off infected individuals and ferry them to government or private quarantine facilities.
At the launch of the COVID-19 Command Center in Makati City, Dizon stressed, “First of all, I think it’s very difficult to make speculative statements like that. I would rather not comment on the speculations made by a newspaper from another country. But I think what the data shows us is that since we ramped up testing, we have found more positives and our people have to understand that that is normal.”
This development reminds us of the situation in the United States several weeks ago when US President Donald Trump received reports that tens of thousands of Americans were getting infected by the coronavirus 2019, according to the results of that country’s increased testing capacity. Trump’s no-nonsense order to his health authorities was, “Go easy on testing.”
Vince Dizon can only say the obvious: that when the Philippines had no access to testing, it was hard to pinpoint those who are positive from the virus and isolate them from the rest of the population. He pointed out that transmission reached one of its highest levels in June when several areas were placed under general community quarantine (GCQ).
The numbers ticked off by Dizon are reassuring. He said we have now reached a total of 30,000 tests per day and mentioned that Singapore is nowhere near that number. The country’s testing effort is now double of what South Korea is doing, he said.
While we agree with Dizon and the IATF on the importance of testing, especially the kind called swab test or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) which confirms whether an individual is positive or negative for the coronavirus, there is a felt need for strengthening the system of contact tracing, isolation of patients, quarantine, and hospital care. We all should follow the minimum health protocols and try to survive this pandemic until the vaccine is available for us.