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Not all workers will be required to test for the coronavirus: Philippine govt

A makeshift lockdown's barricade blocks a street from outsiders to protect a neighbourhood from the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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MANILA, May 20, 2020, PhilStar. The government will not be requiring companies to test all workers for the coronavirus disease, The Philippine Star reported.

Instead, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said that companies should enforce proper social distancing, sanitation, wearing of face masks and daily thermal scanning.

Companies should also have daily health declarations, which will require workers to disclose whether they feel unwell or they have contact with a novel coronavirus patient.

“Only those who say that they are either feeling unwell or have had contact with a COVID-19 patient will be considered suspects. These suspects will be the only ones required to take a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test,” Lopez said in Filipino.

He made these announcements on Tuesday night as he and other members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) joined President Rodrigo Duterte for an unannounced address to the nation.

Lopez also suggested that companies shoulder temporary shuttle services and accommodations closer to places of work to make up for the lack of public transportation.

This came after criticisms on government for not having a plan for mass testing and passing the responsibility onto the private sector.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday that mass testing was “physically impossible” and that the government is instead aiming to test one to two percent of the population.

After drawing flak for saying that the Duterte administration has no plans to conduct mass testing for COVID-19, Roque clarified that the government is doing an “expanded targeted testing.”

“The term should be ‘expanded targeted testing’ okay? No country in the world tests all their citizens. So the term ‘mass testing’ is wrong,” Roque said at a press briefing Tuesday.

“That’s what we want for Metro Manila. There is no perfect formula, we just need to follow the global benchmark and build capacity to test broadly and swiftly, and this is what we are doing,” he added.

The Department of Health is targeting a daily capacity of 30,000 tests by May 31 despite missing its initial target of 8,000 tests per day by the end of April.

As of Tuesday, 12,942 have been infected with COVID-19 in the Philippines. The novel coronavirus has killed at least 320,255 people since the outbreak first emerged in China last December.

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