Filipinos suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) may now get tested free of charge.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Wednesday announced that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will shoulder Covid-19 testing costs as well as quarantine and isolation costs.
“The last thing we want is for our citizens to worry about medical costs and expenses. Their only concern should be their well-being and the well-being of their families,” Nograles said in a statement.
Citing PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales, Nograles said the agency is now in the process of “formalizing and operationalizing the new benefit.”
“I talked with the president of PhilHealth on the matter and he is being supported by the members of the board. All Covid-19 testing will be covered by PhilHealth for free,” Nograles told the media in an event in Butuan City. “The PhilHealth coverage will be of great help to meet the needs of our people especially in the testing for Covid-19.”
Nograles visited the city to witness the signing of agreements among government agencies under the Enhanced Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (EPAHP) of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
In addition, he said the government is working overtime to “fast-track” the deployment of testing kits in order to quickly identify and isolate those infected with Covid-19.
Earlier, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Eric Domingo said they issued a Certificate of Exemption for the use of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) CoV-2 PCR detection kit, which is owned by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), for Covid-19 testing.
The locally-developed kit, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, will be used for field testing coupled with gene sequencing at the Philippine Genome Center.
Once the kits pass the clinical tests, he said the FDA will grant full access by all hospitals as guided by the DOH.
In February, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured the public that those undergoing the 14-day quarantine period will not be spending a single centavo for hospital costs.
He said the government will shoulder the costs of tests, medicines, confinement, and all hospital-related expenses for patients being treated in government hospitals and facilities.
Buy what’s needed
Meanwhile, Panelo urged the public to “buy only what they need” amid reports that there has been a spike in the buying of sanitation supplies after the government placed the country under a state of public health emergency due to the rise in Covid-19 cases.
In a separate statement, he warned that panic buying would result in hoarding and price increases which leave supermarkets, groceries or pharmacies out of supplies.
He said officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has also given assurance that there is ample stock of essential items.
Earlier, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez assured that a local manufacturer has committed to making 1.6 million face masks per month with frontline services in the health sector as a priority in distributing supply.
He said the government has asked the supplier to allocate 2 million pieces to the Philippines over the next two months, while the private sector has tapped an India-based supplier for another 2 million face masks.
Following reports that some hospitals are experiencing overcrowding, Panelo reminded the public that only those with symptoms of Covid-19 will be prioritized to be given medical attention.
He sought for everybody’s cooperation and appealed to the public to stop circulating unverified information that may only cause unnecessary anxiety among communities.
Instead of panicking, he emphasized the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene and observe proper cough etiquette at all times.
Currently, there are 33 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.
President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a proclamation formally declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines after the health department reported the first known local transmission of Covid-19. (Azer Parrocha and Alexander Lopez/PNA)