A volunteer stands inside an empty church with photos of absent parishioners taped to pews as part of social distancing measures at an Easter Sunday Mass in Angeles City in Pampanga province on April 12. The Philippine government has set up 15 mass testing centers to try and detect the coronavirus across the country. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
The government organization tasked with dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines says it has set up and opened 15 Covid-19 mass testing facilities covering the entire country
This is part of government efforts to combat the virus and flatten the curve of cases, Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Covid-19, said on April 13.
“These facilities will hasten and widen our efforts to conduct Covid testing and identify Covid patients in order to give them the appropriate treatment,” Galvez said on national television.
Tests had been conducted since March 12 only to patients showing symptoms of the virus. Authorities had concentrated distribution of test kits to Manila where 83 percent of coronavirus cases have been found.
The test centers include San Lazaro Hospital, Baguio General Hospital and Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City.
Galvez said the Philippines now has 2,673 quarantine centers.
“They have been set up as a result of the emergency powers granted by Congress to the president. Because of those powers, we are able to implement these projects,” Galvez said.
Congress has also granted President Rodrigo Duterte a 275 billion peso (US$5.5 billion) emergency fund to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Nearly 10 billion has been allocated for mass testing across the country.
Health workers outside the capital have welcomed the move.
“It’s much appreciated. So far, most efforts have only been in Manila,” said Gracia Jebulan, a doctor in Iloilo province, south of Manila.
“We do not know if there are cases here in the province because we do not have testing kits. Of course, our reports always say ‘zero cases’. But who knows? That’s why mass testing is key.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has reminded people to remember the sacrifices doctors, nurses, and other frontliners have been making.
“Together, seeing the countless acts of sacrifice and service, acts of kindness and compassion, we begin to see that the spirit of Easter is still much alive in our hearts,” Archbishop Romulo Valles, the conference president, said.
As of April 13, the Philippines had recorded 4,648 Covid-19 cases with 297 deaths, according to government figures.