Senator Sonny Angara said that COVID-19 tests, if done at the government operated laboratories, should be free of charge to the public.
With the demand for COVID-19 tests going up due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Angara said there is sufficient funding under the 2022 national budget to cover for the requirements of the public, particularly those who cannot afford to pay for expensive tests provided by private labs.
The chairman of the Committee on Finance noted that there is P17.85 billion under the 2022 national budget for “COVID-19 Laboratory Network Commodities,” which can be tapped for the provision of free tests.
This consists of P7.92 billion under the budget of the Department of Health and another P9.92 billion under the unprogrammed appropriations.
“The Senate pushed for the allocation of bigger amounts for COVID testing—knowing fully well that we are still in a pandemic and the new, faster spreading variants continue to emerge.”
“The Senate pushed for the allocation of bigger amounts for COVID testing—knowing fully well that we are still in a pandemic and the new, faster spreading variants continue to emerge,” the veteran legislator said.
Considering that a significant number of people infected with the Omicron variant are either asymptomatic or are experiencing mere coughs or colds, the seasoned lawmaker said the likelihood of the same people spreading the virus to more people is very high, especially if they do not know they are positive.
“Kaya mahalaga sa panahon na ito na lahat ng nagkakasakit—maging simpleng sipon man ito o ubo at lagnat ay sumailalim sa testing. Kahit walang sintomas pero may exposure sa may sakit ay mas maiging magpa test. Iniiwasan natin dito ang pagkalat ng virus at matamaan ang mga taong may comorbidities,” the senator stressed.
He called on the DOH to immediately download the funds to the government laboratories so that more free tests could be provided to those who require it.
For those who opt to do their tests with the privately-operated labs, Angara said these could be subsidized by the government through the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
He also urged the Food and Drug Administration to act swiftly on the pending applications for special certifications for self-administered home testing kits so that more products will be made available to the public and at lower prices.
“The more tests we conduct, the more effective our efforts will be in preventing the spread of COVID.”
“The bottom line is that the more tests we conduct, the more effective our efforts will be in preventing the spread of COVID. We reiterate our appeal for people to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so; to get their booster shots; wear your face masks; and stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out,” Angara said.
With regard to contact tracing, he clarified that there is P250 million lodged in the budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government for the hiring of contact tracers.
Another P1 billion was placed under the unprogrammed appropriations for the same purpose.