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What's the Difference Between Mass Testing and Expanded Targeted Testing?

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says they're not the same.
by Clara Rosales
May 19, 2020
Presidential Spokesperson clarified on May 19 that the Philippines has the goal of "expanded targeted testing," and not mass testing.
Photo/s: screencap from RTV Malacanang Press Briefing

The term “mass testing” has been widely used to refer to conducting tests on thousands of Filipinos every day to determine positive COVID-19 cases. It turns out this form of mass testing is not the Philippine government’s goal.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on May 19 that government is not conducting mass testing, but “expanded targeted testing.”

On May 18, the government faced criticism online after Roque said that there is no program for conducting mass testing all over the country, and that the government would need assistance from the private sector to be able to test more individuals.

Roque clarified that the government is not leaving the responsibility of conducting tests to the private sector.

“Hindi po pinapabayaan ng pamahalaan ang expanded testing sa pribadong sector. Partner po natin and pribadong sector sa bagay na ito,” Roque said in a press briefing.

He then said that the term “mass testing” is wrong, as he claimed that no country in the world has the resources to test the entire population.

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“Wala pong bansa sa buong mundo na tinetest ang lahat ng kanilang mamamayan. Kaya nga po mali ang terminong mass testing,” he said. 

According to Roque, what the Philippine government is doing is “expanded targeted testing.” This form of testing does not test all individuals, but only tests people who may be COVID-positive based on symptoms, travel history, or interaction with other COVID-19 patients.

Instead of testing all residents of a city, or a region, only the following must be tested:

  • individuals showing COVID-19 symptoms
  • individuals who came from overseas
  • individuals who interacted with COVID-positive patients (contact tracing)
  • and those who tested positive in rapid antibody tests

Roque added that the goal of the country is to hit the global benchmark of 1.5 to 2 percent of the entire population.

The Philippines has only tested 207,823 citizens, which translates to 0.19 percent of the entire country's population.

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