THE Davao City Council has passed on the second reading a proposed ordinance mandating swab testing to all F1 (first generation), F2, and F3 contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 positive individual in the city.
If passed, those who refuse to be tested will be fined as much as P5,000.
Councilor Mabel Acosta, chairperson of the committee on peace and public safety and on special publications, said in a radio interview last week that among the provisions of the ordinance is that violators will not be given any warning but a citation ticket will be issued if they will get tested for Sars-CoV-2.
"Daghan ang dili magpatuo. Naglisod atong contact tracers. (Many people do not comply, which gives our contact tracers a hard time.) How can we control the spread [of the virus] kung dili mo magpa-swab? (if you do not submit yourself for testing?)," Acosta said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.
At present, the city government testing is required for close contacts up to third-generation contacts of Covid-19 patients. This is stipulated under Executive Order (EO) 20, "An Order Providing for Mandatory Swabbing of All F1, F2, And F3 Contacts of an RT-PCR [Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction] Confirmed Positive Case of Covid-19 in Davao City." It also penalizes those who fail to follow provisions based on "existing laws and ordinances."
Under existing laws, Acosta said one can be penalized under Republic Act (RA) 11332 or the "Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act." Penalties could range up to P20,000 if any violations are found based on RA 11332. However, Acosta said P20,000 is too much.
"If you do not cooperate, you are practically... it's a crime to give your virus to other people unya pinahamak mo buong pamilya, buong kapatid mo, buong subdivision, Pilipinas. Ginapasa man nimo. So dapat, kung ma-identify ka, magpa-swab ka (as you are endangering the lives of your family, your brothers and sisters, the entire subdivision, and the entire Philippines. You are transmitting the virus to others. So if you are identified to undergo swabbing, you must cooperate)," Acosta said.
However, while there are good intentions for this, it is unfair to penalize people when there are issues with the system and the process of getting a swab test.
The good councilor and her team do not need to look far to see the issues Dabawenyos are facing when it comes to swab testing. They could already check social media for the concerns of Dabawenyos when it comes to getting a swab test.
Dabawenyos have raised the concern of long lines and crowding at the swab sites. Many fear the crowding situation at the swab sites may be the cause of one getting Covid-19.
There is also an issue with how much a swab site can cater based on available materials and manpower.
Last month, City Health Office officials manning the swab center near the Crocodile Parks had to inform several individuals to go home due to the limited number of swabbers and test vials.
"Unfortunately, we have a limited number of swabbers. If we have two teams for the day, depende sa availability ng swabbers (it depends on the availability of the swabbers), we can only accommodate 300," Dr. Nikita Marie Jamiana, City Health Office District Health Physician, said in an interview on May 25. She added that if they have three teams, they can cater up to 500 individuals.
The city government is continuously hiring swabbers and adding swab sites to be able to test more.
There is also misinformation revolving around testing that also needs to be addressed by health officials. For example, some think that testing results are not always true and have been tampered with.
Somehow related to testing, some netizens have raised issues on the delays in the release of test results. Some have also complained on social media about how they were informed that they were positive for Sars-CoV-2 but have not received a copy of their results.
These are issues revolving around the free testing the city government is offering. If Dabawenyos want to skip the hassle, they would get a test at one of the private laboratories. But not everyone has the financial resources to get tested at a private laboratory.
In a nutshell, while people understand the need to get tested, the process of getting one here can be a hassle for them. There is also the hesitancy of getting tested and the lack of transparency when it comes to the results.
Before an ordinance is enacted, our local leaders should probably look into the testing process first, help find ways in improving it, and make it less of a hassle for the people who will get tested. Again, it is unfair to require and then penalize people if the process itself is not efficient.