What is Mass Testing and Why Should We Have it?

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A law stating that there is no mandate for the government to spend on mass testing was just announced by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III that Congress recently passed. It was mentioned that we should rely on the assistance of the private sector to boost testing capacity. This claim caused an outrage among the netizens in the Philippines. With demands for mass testing, you may be wondering what exactly is it and why do we need it.

So What Exactly Is Mass Testing?

In short, a wider scope of testing of people at risk for COVID-19. But what does that entail? Currently, the Philippines is conducting “expanded targeted testing”. This means that there are only certain criteria that determine if a person can get tested for COVID-19. A person will be subjected to testing if they met the following conditions:

  • If symptomatic
  • If the individuals are arriving from abroad
  • If the person has been in contact with an infected patient
  • If tested positive in rapid antibody test results

So mass testing is where anyone could get tested regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. Testing could be for all citizens even if they aren’t suspected for COVID-19.

Okay, But Why Do We Need It?

It has been emphasized by the World Health Organization that testing is an important tool. To understand why you need to know what are the proper steps in dealing with a pandemic. First, you need to recognize that speed is of the essence. This is because you need to track down patients with symptoms, identify the people they have been in contact with, and implementing quarantine until there are no more signs of infection. By doing this, they won’t be able to spread out the virus. Now the problem is, how do you identify people who are infected with COVID-19? This is where mass testing comes into play. As the WHO director emphasized, you cannot fight a virus if you do not know where it is. One undetected case could lead to continuing the chain of transmission. More people would get sick if we do not determine and successfully quarantine COVID-19 infected patients. By doing mass testing and quickly tracing patients accurately, you would eliminate the risk of a second wave happening.

So Why Can’t General Quarantine or Physical Social Distancing Work?

General quarantine and physical social distancing can slow the spread of the virus. Cases will come to light slowly however this can make people complacent. With a small number of cases coming out, the general population won’t truly know the scale of the pandemic and will naturally resist quarantine. These types of strategies should be implemented early on and should be a tool used with mass testing.

Mass Testing is Important

Without mass testing, you would be delaying the inevitable. Cases will continue to surge until we truly understand the gravity of the threat. After understanding the scope of the pandemic, this is where we can take measures like contact tracing and quarantine to stop the spread. Mass testing should be conducted and we should be able to rely on our government to provide this need.

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