Dizon: Mass testing not ideal, should be 'risk-based and targeted'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6) — The country’s testing czar is not in favor of mass testing despite the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.

Ang problema kasi sa concept ng mass testing is…pwedeng ako mismo ang magdesisyon kung kailan ako dapat magpa-test,” Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said during a Palace briefing.

[Translation: The problem with the concept of mass testing is that I myself can decide when I will get tested.]

Ang sinasabi ng mga eksperto, kailangan guided yung decision na yun," he explained. "Guided either by a professional, or guided by very, very specific protocols set by professionals and experts.”

[Translation: What experts are saying is that this decision should be guided.]

Dizon said testing must be "risk-based and targeted" as conducting tests on a country’s entire population is not recommended by experts both in and out of the Philippines.

Testing for COVID-19, he further explained, must be coupled with speedy contact tracing and isolation of affected individuals.

Critics slammed Dizon’s remarks, arguing that calls for mass testing does not mean conducting tests on every single Filipino but rather beefing up national testing capacity to ensure the protection of as many people as possible.

“Now is not the time for us to repeat the mistakes of our initial pandemic response, not when Filipinos continue to suffer from the pandemic,” said Dr. RJ Naguit, spokesperson of Akbayan.

“If this administration continues to fool us by forcing on us a twisted definition of mass testing and insisting they are unable to test more people, the fault lies squarely on their incompetence,” Naguit also said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the Health Department’s technical advisory group, emphasized that the timing and who is getting tested are most important when it comes to COVID-19 testing.

The infectious disease expert flagged the danger of testing individuals without considering the timing at which they might have gotten infected. He added they might be cleared despite actually being positive for COVID-19 but testing negative for it.

Still, Dizon assured that the government continues to expand the country’s RT-PCR lab testing. Antigen testing, meantime, shall augment this to aid lab personnel who have also been contracting the disease.

Citing data from March 20 to April 2, Dizon said the country has been conducting an average of 52,000 tests per day.

He said over half of this figure has been performed in the NCR Plus Bubble since the area has been dealing with skyrocketing infections in the past weeks.