MANILA – Malacañang is leaving it to private firms to conduct coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing for their employees.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said workers do not need to be tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to report to work unless they showed symptoms of the disease.
“We are giving recognition to the initiative of the private sector na sila na mismo ang bumili ng rapid test kits para ma-test ang kanilang mga empleyado (that they themselves buy rapid antibody test kits to test their employees),” Roque said in a virtual presser on Monday.
He explained that the government is still trying to enhance its current testing capacity by opening up more laboratories that can conduct Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and acquiring more rapid antibody test kits.
“In an ideal world, dapat po lahat ng tao ma-testing pero alam ninyo, una, ang hirap na nga nitong PCR testing, trenta pa lang ang laboratories natin. Ang gusto nating mangyari hindi bababa sa nobenta iyang mga PCR testing centers natin; pangalawa, nagkakaubusan din po sa rapid test kits (everyone should be tested, but you know first, we’re having a hard time with PCR testing, we only have 30 labs. We want to have at least 90 PCR testing centers; second we’re running out of rapid test kits),” he said.
He admitted that the government had no program to conduct large-scale testing and that it would now be more difficult to purchase rapid antibody test kits from China.
“In terms of mass testing na ginagawa ng Wuhan na all 11 million, wala pa pong ganiyang programa at iniiwan natin sa pribadong sektor (of mass testing done by Wuhan that all 11 million people, we don’t have a program like that and we are leaving it to the private sector),” he said.
Joey Concepcion, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder, said the Project Anti-body Rapid Test Kits (Project ARK) has raised at least 1 million rapid antibody test kits.
Project ARK is a private sector-led initiative that aims to make massive testing possible through the use of antibody rapid test kits.
Around 200 companies are preparing to conduct a million rapid antibody tests among their employees this month, he said.
Dr. Minguita Padilla, Project ARK Medical Team chief, said they have so far screened residents living in Maynila, Makati, Quezon City, Pasig, and Antipolo and plans to cover more cities in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said the government should pay for mass testing of private employees since most businesses do not have the capacity to finance their testing costs.
Currently, only symptomatic persons are required to undergo testing, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Work has resumed in some parts of the country under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ) since May 16. (ia/PNA)