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Bill pushes virus tests for vulnerable sectors 

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A House passed passed a bill to make Covid-19 testing more accessible to vulnerable members of society.

The House Defeat Covid-19 Committee (DCC) approved House Bill 6707 or the “Crush Covid-19 Act”, which encourages a baseline polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for vulnerable members of society to intercept Covid-19 transmission.

The “vulnerable members of society” include those returning to work with co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, pregnancy, and old age.

The bill also covers persons entering the Philippine territory coming from abroad, including foreign nationals, provided that the cost of testing for foreigners shall be at their own expense.

The bill further provides that priority should be given to the following: health care workers; sales personnel in public markets, groceries, and supermarkets; food handlers; factory workers; construction workers; security guards and drivers; and banks and transfer fund facilities personnel.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, a co-chair of the DCC, said the measure mandates the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to shoulder the cost of testing for the vulnerable sectors.

“As we create more jobs and try to jumpstart our economy, we also need to work double-time to ensure that health standards and protocols are geared towards protecting the vulnerable sectors of our society,” Romualdez said.

The bill states that the testing subsidy shall not exceed PHP1,700 for government institutions and PHP1,800 for private institutions per vulnerable person tested.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, the author of the bill, stressed the need to detect and manage Covid-19 early, especially in asymptomatic carriers, as the country gradually enters the new normal with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

“We cannot be blind to the actual spread of the virus. We cannot allow our people to work in fear, knowing that only symptomatic people are tested," Garin said.

"While symptomatic patients need the utmost care and attention, we should not forget the fact that Covid-19 carriers can be deceiving. They appear healthy on the outside but virulent and infectious on the inside," she added.

The DCC also adopted two resolutions to cushion the impact of coronavirus pandemic, including a substitute bill to House Resolution 807, which urges the national government to fast-track the disbursement of the second tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP) emergency cash subsidy by authorizing the barangay to identify the beneficiaries and disburse the allocation fairly, efficiently and responsibly.

Another resolution that was adopted expresses the commitment of the House to enact the proposed PHP66-billion supplemental budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to support its programs in addressing the impact of the pandemic, particularly in the areas of food and nutrition, security and price stability. 

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