Senator Win Gatchalian commended the government for extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until April 30 to utilize the time to test and treat COVID-19 patients and slow the rate of infection.
He reiterated that the April 14 mass testing will provide a clearer picture of the COVID-19 spread in the country by tracking down those who are infected with the disease so they can immediately be isolated or ordered quarantined.
He urged all Local Government Units (LGUs) to coordinate with the national government in the goal to increase testing capacity by up to 7,000 tests a day by April 13, increase of up to 9,800 tests per day by April 20 and finally an increase of up to 20,000 tests a day by April 27. The senator emphasized that mass testing should have a targeted approach and prioritize those who have been exposed to COVID-19-positive patients such as those Persons under Monitoring (PUM), Persons under Investigation (PUI), the frontliners, and include those asymptomatic residents who may unknowingly be spreading the disease.
“Sa Valenzuela, ang una naming ite-test ay ang mga may sakit at ang mga kasama nila sa bahay, mga kamag-anak nila, at iba pang nakapaligid sa kanila, pati na mga kapitahay. Sa bahay pa lang pwede na silang magkahawaan. Kapag maaga silang mabibigyan ng babala, maiiwasan ang pagkalat ng virus sa kani-kanilang komunidad”, explained Gatchalian.
With the two-week quarantine extension, Gatchalian urged the health department and its attached agencies to extend their resources as well. The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) for instance, should extend covering the cost of treatment for COVID-19 patients for the whole duration of the expanded quarantine period from the supposed April 14 completion. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is ready to transfer the amount of Php 420.585 million to Philhealth for COVID-19 related packages.
While acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dent in the country’s economy, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs also urged the country’s economic managers to speed up a massive stimulus package to avert a possible recession.
Gatchalian said the government can realign the 2020 budget and reallocate budgets of some big projects, for instance the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, to critical health concerns.
Gatchalian said the government should ensure that the food supply chain should not be disrupted especially with the newly launched ‘Rapid Pass’, a system which food farmers and traders can use so they can easily pass through checkpoints. This will provide supplies in the market and accelerate consumer spending.
The senator likewise urged all banks, financial and lending institutions to also extend the grace period for loan and credit card payments and residential rentals while the community quarantine is still in effect.
The country’s economic managers are now in the process of collating all information from the ground so they can plan ahead and get the economy going.