Doctors explain ‘mass testing’ for Roque, public’s benefit

May. 20, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Doctors call out Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for misinformation by interpreting the “mass testing” for COVID-19 as testing all Filipinos. They challenged him to engage the public with science on raising their understanding on this issue.

This was discussed on the online web forum of health professionals called Second Opinion on Tuesday.

Roque was criticized on his statement during his press briefing May 19 when he said the accurate term should be “expanded, targeted testing”.

“Mass testing is incorrect as there is no country in the world that tests its entire population,” he said.

Roque pointed out that only one to two percent of the country’s population will be tested, or higher than up 10% in the case of an epicenter as recognized by the World Health Organization.

But doctors during the Second Opinion webinar warned Roque to avoid downgrading the people’s understanding of the issue.

“The right term is massive, targeted free testing compared to the narrow and passive approach of the DOH wherein testing is limited to those who approached Barangay Health Emergency Response Team’s and hospitals,” said Dr. Geneve Reyes of Health Action for Human Rights.

Reyes has identified that patients with COVID-19 symptoms, frontline health workers, members of communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the persons under monitoring in the Department of Health’s (DOH) previous classification are the ones to be tested.

Dr. Gene Nisperos of the Community Medicine Development Foundation said that with Roque’s explanation, the call would have been “test all” that every Filipino should be tested.

But Nisperos said the DOH has been doing targeted testing for different reasons making the term “expanded and targeted testing” incorrect.

He cited that before March 16, all persons under investigation were tested regardless of the severity of symptoms but due to the limited supply of kits after March 16, the department changed its protocol prioritizing PUI’s with severe symptoms for testing while those with mild symptoms underwent home quarantine.

“Preferential treatment was given upon the testing of asymptomatic VIP’s first over symptomatic patients,” he added.

Nisperos pointed out how the latest classification of the DOH has made the target of testing narrower in the Valenzuela experience wherein five out of 40 asymptomatic people tested were found to be COVID-19 positive in contrast to the exclusion of asymptomatic patients or persons under monitoring in the testing.

The Department of Health has reported having 13,356 total bed capacity to house COVID-19 patients and 31 RT-PCR Licensed Laboratories.

“Without any real mass testing, all measures such as creating quarantine centers, ICU beds and ventilators would have been token. Without any real mass testing, it is so easy to draw flawed conclusions from insufficient data,” he said.

As of May 15, the Department of Health has conducted 11,127 daily testing or 37% of the targeted 30,000 tests a day. (

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