Not all Filipinos wanting to be tested for the virus that causes the the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can be tested after all.

This was after Malacañang announced Tuesday that the Philippines will be testing only 1.5 – 2% of the total population for COVID-19. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that no country in the world has ever tested each of its citizens for COVID-19 as it is practically impossible to to test all 110 million Filipinos.  He was reacting to calls from various sectors for the government to conduct mass testing to measure the extent of the COVID-19 infection in the country. 

He also said that it is wrong to use the term “mass testing” as it connotes the testing of all citizens.

“Mali iyong ginagamit nating term na ‘mass testing.’ Ang tawag po dapat ay ‘expanded targeted testing.’ Wala pong bansa sa buong mundo na tini-test ang lahat ng kanilang mga mamamayan.”

Roque insisted that what the government is doing is to replicate other countries’ best practices in testing for COVID-19.

“What we are doing is we’re trying to follow the best examples that we have and right now we’re trying to follow the footsteps of South Korea; and that is why the goal is to test 1.5 to 2% of the total population,” Roque said.

The testing in Metro Manila, the country’s outbreak epicenter, should cover up to 10% of its total population.

The presidential spokesperson also added that the Philippines is not planning to follow the footsteps of its ally, China, where the city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 was first reported, is set to test all its 11 million residents after a new wave of infections was reported.

The following individuals are qualified for COVID-19 testing:

  • all symptomatic
  • all those coming from abroad
  • all those who had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person
  • those who tested positive in rapid antibody test results

“Wala pong perpektong formula. Kailangan lang natin sundin ang global benchmark and build capacity to test broadly and swiftly,” Roque said.

Roque reiterated that the Department of Health’s guidelines on expanded testing were centered on “international practice.”

“We test those who need to be tested, hindi lang iyong mga gustong magpa-test,” he said.

Government data showed that as of May 13, almost 2 months since the government imposed a lockdown, the country had only conducted a total of 189,469 tests on 184,857 individuals.

The government plans to conduct at least 30,000 tests a day by the end of the month. (RJ Espartinez)