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Palace seeks free COVID tests in gov’t health centers

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte wants the government to shoulder the cost for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) tests in government health centers to further curb the spread of the virus.

In a public address on Monday, Duterte said he realized the importance of testing to stop transmission, especially in the cases of asymptomatic patients.

Tingnan ko kung may pera at magbili na lang tayo and in all government hospitals or in health centers, mabigay natin libre (We’ll look for money and maybe we’ll just buy so that we can give it for free in all government hospitals or in health centers). Free of charge,” he said.

Duterte ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was also present at the meeting, to craft a policy that would subsidize the RT-PCR test of suspected cases in government laboratories or public health centers.

He also asked Duque to target the first or second quarter of 2021 to roll out the program, vowing to find sources to fund the initiative.

Target the first or second quarter if you can have a program where I can review and look for the money,” he said.

Duque said private laboratories currently charge around P4,500 to P5,000 for an RT-PCR test, while the price is capped at P3,800 in government laboratories or centers.

He assured that PhilHealth continues to shoulders the test for its members, with the highest amount it paid for a single RT-PCR test reaching P3,409.

In his address, Duterte underscored the importance of lowering the cost for tests to limit the spread of the virus while a vaccine is not yet available on the market.

If we are to really avoid and limit the virus, government itself must provide for the well curative and palliative or whatever preventive and one of those is really the swabbing (to know if someone is infected),” he said. Philippine News Agency