COVID-19 mass testing key to easing of restrictions


LOCKDOWN rules will only be eased after May 15 if the national government, along with local governments, will be able to expand testing capacity for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Secretray Carlito G. Galvez Jr, National Task Force COVID-19 chief implementer, said mass testing will be particularly crucial for high-risk areas such as the National Capital Region (NCR). In a briefing Tuesday, he said they are monitoring if the suspected cases in Metro Manila can all be tested before May 15, then “most expectedly have a modified” quarantine measures after that. The NCR has 6,420 out of the 9,684 COVID-19 cases in the country as of May 5. The Department of Health (DoH) earlier said it is targeting 30,000 daily tests by end-May with 78 laboratories operational nationwide. Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey A. Concepcion, meanwhile, said the government should aim for up to 50,000 daily PCR tests. “Ideally we should be at 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 — the more PCR testing we can do the better,” he said in a television interview on Wednesday. “GCQ has to happen for us to be able to feel and see how entrepreneurs will react,” he said. The private sector has launched Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits) to help increase testing. As of Wednesday, 168 companies have signed up with more than a million test kits set to arrive in the country by mid-May. He said he expects the number of participating companies to increase to 500. — Gillian M. Cortez and Jenina P. Ibañez

Cops, non-uniformed employees donate P228M from salaries for COVID-19 response

MEMBERS of the Philippine National Police (PNP), both officers and non-uniformed personnel, have pooled together P228 million mainly from their salaries, and donated this to the national government for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response. PNP Chief Archie Francisco F. Gamboa said other organizations such as the PNP Academy Alumni Association and the Police Cavaliers Association Inc. also contributed to the fund-raising activity. “Beyond the call of duty, our police officers and our non-uniformed PNP personnel volunteered to donate a portion of their pay to help fund the government’s efforts against the contagion. This is more than commendable. It is actually heroic,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said during the turnover ceremony on Wednesday. — Beatrice M. Laforga

Agrarian reform legal proceedings still suspended in ECQ areas

LEGAL proceedings and processes relating to the agrarian law implementation (ALI) remain suspended in areas where strict lockdown rules are in effect until May, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said on Wednesday. “All scheduled hearings, on-site inspection and investigations, meetings, dialogues, mediation conferences and other proceedings in the said areas pursuant to the regular or special ALI rules are suspended until May 15, 2020,” Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones said. The filing of petitions, appeals, motions, pleadings, and other submissions involving all regular and special ALI cases that fall during the enhanced community quarantine or up to May 15 has been extended for 30 calendar days, counted from May 18, unless the quarantine period is extended again. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave