Palace: Red Cross Testing Halt Not Crippling Contact Tracing

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Malacañang on Tuesday disagreed with the claim made by researchers that the decision of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to stop conducting tests that are being charged to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will “cripple” the government’s isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing programs.

The OCTA Research Group, composed of researchers from the University of the Philippines and University of Sto. Tomas, warned that without PRC facilities, public health authorities are “blind” because of less accurate information.

“We simply disagree po kasi hindi lang naman PRC ang nagti-test (because it’s not only the PRC that’s conducting tests),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque said there are 115 licensed reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR test) laboratories and 35 GeneXpert laboratories capable of handling test samples.

“Hindi po tayo nakasalalay sa iisang testing facility ng PRC. We disagree po with OCTA Research (we’re not dependent on one testing facility of the PRC. We disagree with OCTA),” he added.

He also disagreed with the research group’s prediction that easing restrictions in public transportation will trigger an increase in new coronavirus disease cases in Metro Manila in the next two weeks.

Early this month, the Duterte Cabinet approved a one-seat apart policy for public transport to increase ridership capacity.

“Again, we disagree po. Tingin ko po, epektibo po iyong ating communication na si Presidente na ang humihingi sa lahat na mag-mask, maghugas at mag-iwas (I think our communication in having the President asking us to wear mask, wash hands, and observe physical distancing is effective),” he said.

According to Roque, Filipinos were disciplined enough to follow quarantine protocols so that they would be able to resume work and earn a living.

The one-seat apart policy, he said, was based on studies made by former health secretaries Manuel Dayrit and Esperanza Cabral.

He said public transport will remain safe as long as commuters follow the “7 Commandments”.

The seven commandments for all public transport, he said, are wearing of face masks; wearing of face shields; no talking and no eating; adequate ventilation; frequent and proper disinfection; no symptomatic passengers, and appropriate physical distancing.

The OCTA Research Group earlier asked the government to resolve the debt issue between Red Cross and PhilHealth and ensure the organization resumes testing as soon as possible.

They emphasized the need for PRC to resume its testing for the government as the humanitarian organization accounts for about 30 percent of the country’s total Covid-19 testing capacity. (PNA)

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