Should Bicol do more Covid-19 testing?
By Mavic Conde
On Oct. 3, The Department of Health (DOH) Bicol recorded a 21.49 percent Covid-19 positivity rate, which is four times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard benchmark for Covid-19 positive test rates.
According to WHO, a 5 percent (or less) positivity rate is an indication that the spread of Covid-19 is under control. Positivity rate is one of the metrics for tracking how prevalent the virus carriers are when compared to the number of tests being done.
To achieve that benchmark, in every 100 tested individuals only 5 of them should be positive. In the Philippines, in every five persons tested one of them turned out infected.
“With [the country’s] current positivity rate 4 to 5 times higher still, we cannot afford to be complacent,” Data Analyst Edson Guido said on his first Facebook live event where he talked about Covid-19 testing and positivity rate among others. He added that if we’re testing only the sickest persons, we’re missing out on those who have the infection but goes undetected.
According to him, the government can decrease the positivity rate by going beyond confirmatory testing, which is targeted for persons showing symptoms. In the said DOH Bicol bulletin, the majority of cases are mild and asymptomatic.
Guido said that testing should be made free for all. “Yes, it will cost the government a lot. But lockdowns are way costlier,” he told his listeners where he cited this report from NEDA: the country loses P150 billion in economy weekly alone due to lockdowns.
Testing more aggressively will also help asymptomatic persons not have further lung damage. Studies show that it is commonly occuring among these patients even without falling ill. How it will affect them in the long run remains to be seen. As such, immediate detection is crucial.
It’s not only the number of testing that the government needs to speed up (where Southeast Asian neighbors are doing 150 thousands tests per day, the Philippines is testing only 70-80 thousands and even lower) but also in terms of vaccination. Now the country is vaccinating only 350 thousands of people per day and only 20 percent of the population is vaccinated, Guido said.