January 14, 2022
MANILA — Senator Manny Pacquiao on Thursday called for free and accessible rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests as he rejected moves to impose restrictions against people unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The presidential aspirant of PROMDI also questioned the lack of a uniform and reliable contact tracing mobile application, pointing out that the country can manage the pandemic better through mass testing and effective contact tracing.
“Imbes na pagbawalan natin ang mga unvaccinated na lumabas at maghanapbuhay, mas maganda na gawin nating libre at accessible ang antigen test. At kapag positive ang isang natest, libre din ang isasagawang confirmatory RT-PCR test. Kailangan natin palakasin ang mass testing natin sa halip na i-discriminate ang mga hindi pa bakunado,” Pacquiao said.
According to Pacquiao, such a strategy would allow health authorities to properly segregate and isolate those who are sick without the need to curtail the basic rights of those who are unvaccinated.
Moreover, he noted, this would provide the government with the best tool to handle the pandemic without resorting to heightened alert levels and community lockdowns.
Pacquiao said antigen testing facilities should be established in every barangay, health center, mall, and workplace.
While he reiterated his support for the government’s vaccination campaign, he pointed out that certain people cannot be compelled to be vaccinated – notably those who have medical conditions and those who are held back by their religious beliefs.
Sometimes, he added, there were those who wanted to get the vaccine but the shot is still unavailable in their area.
“Bagamat totoong mas mataas ang peligro ng mga hindi bakunado, hindi ito batayan para tratuhin sila na parang may mga nagawang paglabag sa batas lalo’t tama naman ang obserbasyon na pareho pa rin namang nagkakasakit at nakakahawa ang mga bakunado at hindi bakunado,” Pacquiao said.
He then expressed wonder why after more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has yet to come up with a universal and integrated contact tracing system.
“Bakit hindi na lang Staysafe ang gamitin? Bakit hindi ayusin ng DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) ‘yung app para magkaroon tayo ng central database? Pwede ngang ayusin pa ito para automatic na makakatanggap ka ng message kapag meron kang close contacts [na] COVID-positive at bigyan ka ng impormasyon kung ano ang iyong dapat gawin,” Pacquiao said.
The Department of Health on Thursday reported a record-high 34,021 new COVID-19 cases, raising the Philippines’ total confirmed infections to 3,092,409 since the health crisis hit the country in 2020.