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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

Free mass testing to cost P1.4 billion a day

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The Philippine government is estimated to spend around P1.4 billion per day and up to P42 billion per month if it were to conduct free mass testing for the public, the Department of Health (DOH) said in a report by GMA News.

Citing a document in the Lancet, a medical journal, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said random mass testing of 5% of the population per week and had a risk reduction value of 2%.

“Kung 5% of the population, ilan tayo? 100 million, so 5 million per week divided by 7. That’s 700,000 tests per day. The average P2,000 per test. 700,000 times P2,000 per test, how much is that?” he told ANC.

“That is P1.4 billion a day, that is P14 billion every ten days, that is P42 billion in one month,” he added.

Duque issued the remark amid calls for free mass testing during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases believed to be driven by the Omicron variant.

According to Duque, the budget that will be used for mass testing can be used for other projects.

“My God, I’d rather put that money for my healthcare worker benefits, for ayuda in communities that are doing granular lockdowns. That’s the way to put this huge sums of money to best use,” he said.

Duque said the DOH will meet with the Departments of Finance and the Budget and Management to discuss the funding of the special risk allowance of healthcare workers for the year 2022.

On Wednesday, the DOH disclosed an updated policy making COVID-19 testing optional for asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases and persons with mild symptoms.

The DOH said it will also prioritize the testing of healthcare workers, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities.

Meanwhile, Duque previously said the Health Department will look into lowering the prices of RT-PCR tests in the country.

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