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SC urged to act petition for COVID-19 mass testing

SC urged to act petition for COVID-19 mass testing
This undated photo shows health care worker takes a swab from a woman at a mobile testing site. 

MANILA, Philippines — A group of petitioners from a broad network, led by former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, urged the Supreme Court to act on their two-month-old petition asking the court to compel the government to conduct mass testing for COVID-19.

On Thursday, the petitioners, in a Manifestation prepared by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, urged the tribunal to give due course to their petition and order the respondents to submit their comments,

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COVID-19 infections in Philippines rise to 245,143 

It has been two months since they filed their Petition for Mandamus to direct the members of the Duterte cabinet to conduct mass testing, but the SC has yet to order the government to answer their plea.

In their latest pleading, the petitioners cited data from the Department of Health that, as of September 2, shows a testing backlog of 10,982 samples, leading to a delay in testing results.

“Clearly, the government through the DOH is not conducting enough COVID-19 tests nationwide,” they said.

RELATED: DOH: Expect ‘irregularly high number’ of COVID-19 cases as labs submit complete data

Even when Metro Manila reverted back to modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks—following a request for “time-out” from the medical professionals—“nothing changed.”

“The government did not ramp up its mass testing efforts. There is no efficient system of contact tracing. Instead, the government reiterated that its strategy is to wait for the vaccine,” they said.

But the petitioners stressed that there is still uncertainty over the production of a vaccine, prompting the World Health Organization to caution countries not to rely on it to contain the pandemic, but instead urged a “comprehensive public health response.”

READ: WHO tells countries to improve COVID-19 response instead of waiting for a vaccine

Two of the petitioners have tested for COVID-19 and had to undergo testing through private institutions. There was no efficient contact tracing conducted among their close contacts too.

“The assertions in the Petition for Mandamus ring truer than ever. It is clear that the government, even when accorded the power to implement community quarantine for six months, has mismanaged its COVID-19 response,” the petitioners said.

“The wide-ranging effects of the government’s failed COVID-19 response have been unravelling. It is now up to the SC, as the vanguard of constitutional rights to intervene and set this right,” they told the court.

National caseload of COVID-19 infections hit 245,143 with 55,614 active cases.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 9, 2020 – 1:13pm

Other regions and provinces in the Philippines considered moderate and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine starting May 1. Bookmark this page for updates. (Main image by The STAR/Edd Gumban)

September 9, 2020 – 1:13pm

The Department of Labor and Employment says it has released some P6.3 million in livelihood assistance to various workers’ groups in Mimaropa.

The beneficiaries are fishers association, coconut farmers, tricycle drivers, motorcycle shop workers, women’s group, and displaced workers from the provinces of Mindoro and Romblon, the regional office adds.

September 7, 2020 – 4:11pm

The Department of Health reports 1,383 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, raising the national tally to 238,727.

The DOH also confirms 230 additional recoveries, pushing the total of recovered patients to 184,906. The country’s death toll is now at 3,890 with 15 new reported deaths.

With these, total active cases in the Philippines (net of COVID-19 deaths and recoveries) now stands at 49, 931.

September 7, 2020 – 3:22pm

The Philippine National Police’s plan to monitor social media for quarantine violators should recognize people’s data privacy rights, the National Privacy Commission says.

“In keeping communities safe in this pandemic, leads and evidence gathered from social media and other digital tools to enforce the law must be legally obtained,” NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro says, adding police must “use techniques that are not privacy intrusive.”

“It is essential for the police to allay the fears of the community by explaining the measures they employ in enforcing quarantine rules and evaluating possible violators, how they observe the rights of the citizens, and how they mitigate the risks to individuals’ privacy.”

September 7, 2020 – 12:29pm

Training of student athletes will be allowed in areas under general community quarantine and modified GCQ, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says.

Roque, also spokesperson on the inter-agency task force on COVID-19, says the IATF has approved it.

The trainings will be subject to guidelines that will be released by the Commission on Higher Education.

September 7, 2020 – 9:03am

The Philippine government is going in the right direction in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as all indicators are going down in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak, professor David Guido of the UP OCTA Researcg group says.

While the curve is “flattening” in the capital region, Guido notes that there are still areas in the Philippines that need to be concerned about, such as Iloilo and Tacloban, that may be emerging hotspots.

“The government is on the right track and people are doing their part. But the fight is not yet over. This is not the time to relax; this is the time to soldier on,” Guido tells ANC’s “Headstart” Monday morning.

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