Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno is proposing a calibrated return to work, so long as mass testing using real-time PCR (Reverse Transcription Ploymerase Chain Reaction) method is used.
The KMU issued the statement following the announcement by Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion that with the rapid kits now readily available, workers can go back to their companies following massive rapid testing guidelines.
KMU has opposed the use of rapid kits for screening workers, and a ‘calibrated opening of malls’ after April 30 proposed by NEDA Chief Ernestio Pernia, without mass testing among the general public.
“As much as we want to go back to work, rapid testing cannot guarantee workers’ health and safety. It is not the solution to the spread of COVID-19. The proposal is reckless at this time that there is no significant diagnostic testing being done at different localities,” Jerome Adonis, Secretary-General of KMU said reacting to Concepcion’s recommendation.
KMU said there is a need for targeted mass testing to determine the infected section of the population, to be followed with the corresponding isolation, quarantine and treatment response, and effectively contain the COVID-19 spread.
According to a published material of Dr. Maria Cecilia Lim, MD, FPSP, Anatomic and Clinical Pathologist, rapid kits cannot be used for screening the public “because the current test kits are usually negative in people without symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. The tests usually become positive in people with symptoms,” while the PCR method “detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the body so the test becomes positive earlier or even before the symptoms begin.”
The Department of Health also stated in its Interim Guidelines on Expanded Testing for COVID-19 that “antibody-based test kits shall not be used as stand-alone tests to definitively diagnose or rule out COVID-19.”
KMU said that mass testing pertains to PCR diagnostic tests, and that government must invest in this solution. The labor group also urged the business sector to reconsider its plan on rapid testing, and abide by occupational health and safety standards.
“Rather than spend billions for rapid kits, funds should be used for mass testing using the PCR method as part of a comprehensive medical response. Let us not waste our time and resources on haphazard measures,” Adonis added.
KMU will lead another Red Friday Protest today with coordinated actions of workers nationwide calling for mass testing, as part of its Road Map to May 1.
KMU also called for free treatment of those diagnosed with COVID-19. “Minimum wage-earners cannot afford the heavy cost of medical expenses especially that PhilHealth will no longer cover the entire expenses from hospitalization,” Adonis said.