July 9 ------ The Department of Health (DOH) said that it is studying the proposal to conduct randomized testing amid the increasing number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases but noted that such measure is “resource intensive.” “Titingnan namin iyan. Lahat naman ng mga rekomendasyon galing sa mga iba’t-ibang eksperto aming tinatanggap ‘yan at pinag-aaralan. Pero kailangan nating tignan ang kakayanan ng ating health system,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Wednesday.
“It’s resource intensive. Hindi ko pa alam kung kakayanin ng ating sistema, yung sinasabing randomized testing. And, for how long will we do this, diba? So pag ginawa natin iyan, sabi nga natin ang ating testing is a point in time event. So pag tinest kita ngayon, maaring bukas may bago ka ng exposure, itetest ba kita uli?” she added.
Experts from the University of the Philippines projected that COVID-19 cases in the country could reach 100,000 by the end of August. Among the suggestions of the experts are to conduct randomized testing to identify “silent carriers” of the illness; and limit the public transportation again after hundreds of employees of Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 tested positive for COVID-19. “Pero dapat kahit wala tayong nagagawang ganyan klaseng testing, we must enforce our minimum health standards. Kailangan talaga yan ipatupad ng maayos para sa lahat,” she said.
The Health official admitted that tracing the contacts of those MRT employees who tested positive for COVID-19 is a “challenge.” “Yes, we cannot deny that, it is really a challenge for us,” said Vergeire in a separate television interview. Vergeire noted that the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is now leading the contact tracing efforts with the help of the DOH.
The temporary shutting down of the MRT-3, announcing the number of affected employees as well as their “specific work or task in the MRT” are among the efforts in their contact tracing activities. “This is so that people will voluntarily isolate themselves whenever they have symptoms or experience symptoms,” said Vergeire. “Also they would voluntarily call the hotlines of DOH and DILG so that we would be able to identify them and we would be able to continue on with our contact tracing,” she added.
Based on the data of the Department of Transportation, a total of 198 employees of MRT-3 contracted COVID-19 as of July 6. Of the said figure, 177 are depot personnel, three train drivers, two control center personnel, and 16 station personnel.