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Labor press full-blast nationwide free mass testing

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is pressing government to implement full-blast free mass testing nationwide.

This, amidst what the labor group describe Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s response as “dismissive” on calls for mass testing.
“Instead of challenging us on ‘what do we mean by mass testing?’ and being dismissive because of the cost, Secretary Duque should come up with a formula that acceptably responds to the crisis, TUCP slammed the health chief. “Unless of course the Secretary has forgotten his science or is simply intimidated by the magnitude of the problem which will be uncovered with mass testing, and has contented himself with recommending cyclical lockdowns producing joblessness”, TUCP President Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza said.

“The Secretary’s simplistic solution of choosing to limit economic activities without putting mass testing for Covid infection in place is unacceptable given projections that the current surge may peak to 20,000 to 40,000 daily infections,” Mendoza added.

“The country’s economy cannot afford a repeat of 2020 and 2021. Now, 100,000 -200,000 jobs are already projected to be lost under Alert Level 3 only in NCR. We ask Secretary Duque: ‘Which is far more costly? Repeatedly grinding down the economy to a halt resulting in increasing joblessness and poverty that will take us generations to recover from? Or allocate funds now for mass testing?’, Mendoza continued.

“The government has already borrowed billions of dollar for vaccines to prevent the healthcare system from collapsing, but how are we going to recover economically if every time there is a surge, such as now, the typical response is to simplistically limit economic activities or undertake lockdowns, granular or otherwise?” Rep. Mendoza argued.

Mendoza said, “the Test-Trace-Treat approach in controlling the spread of COVID infection should be fully and pro-actively implemented and not be merely limited to “risk-based” individuals. As it is, the DOH aporoach is just being reactive because the virus is spreading so fast. The so-called “whole-of-government-approach” we now see, is “ball passing from one agency to another”. There is a need for greater coherence to curb the surge as it spreads from 1 region to the other. For Government response to be truly wholistic, it must now step-up, starting with a full-blast, free mass testing nationwide which can effectively control the spread of any emerging variants.”

“We all know that while vaccination can prevent hospitalization, it will not prevent the spread of COVID 19. With mass testing we can properly implement quarantine-isolation and treatment, and it will guide our response by giving us a full picture of the magnitude of the transmission,” said Rep. Mendoza. “As the saying goes, correct identification of the problem is already half of the solution,” the labor group leader said.

TUCP also calls on the labor department to convene the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) to hammer out agreements on free Covid-19 testing for all unvaccinated and vaccinated employees required to undertake bi-weekly testing. This is imperative, given the prohibitive costs of tests, specially for minimum wage earners and the rank-and-file

TUCP further urges government to incentivize employers to provide free RT-PCR tests to their employees by putting in place a tax credit mechanism to ensure that businesses are not unnecessarily burdened.

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