Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Wednesday hinted at “major changes” in the country’s Covid-19 response, including wider testing, intensified contact tracing and the opening of more isolation facilities. 

Roque said in an interview with The Source that the country would implement “massive, massive” targeted testing, which would multiply the number of actual tests administered “by at least 10.”

With the use of a “pooled testing method,” the cost of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests would be reduced to around P300 as a test kit can be used by at least 10 persons, Roque explained.

“As soon as we fully implement pooled testing, you will see a major, major decrease in the case doubling rate, as well as in the case reproduction rate,” he added.

‘Reinvigorated tracing’

Roque said the country would “build an army of volunteers” to intensify its contact tracing efforts.

“We will have to reinvigorate tracing using the methods of Baguio City Mayor (Benjamin) Magalong… we’re not just going to rely on individuals are paid to become tracers; we’re going to build an army of volunteers courtesy of training materials to be provided by Mayor Magalong so that we can intensify tracing,” he said. 

Magalong, the Covid-19 contact tracing czar, earlier said the country would develop a “contact tracing ecosystem” that would utilize health workers, law enforcement investigators and data analysts.

READ: Gov’t names ‘czars’ for Covid-19 isolation, tracing, treatment

‘More and more facilities’

Roque said the Covid-19 isolation czar, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, has committed to build “more and more” isolation facilities for Covid-19 positives.

“We hope to build around a thousand isolation facilities. If these are not enough, we will book school dormitories [with] school still out. We will actually attempt to isolate everyone who will turn out positive, because… it’s only in this manner that [other countries] were able to control the spread of the disease, he added.

The Palace spokesman also revealed that the conversion of a drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija into a “mega isolation facility” was being mulled.

As of July 29, 85,486 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the country. John Ezekiel J. Hirro