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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has joined calls for the Duterte administration to further extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after its April 14 deadline amid the rising cases of coronavirus infections in the country.

Lagman said an extension of the Luzon lockdown is urgently needed to allow the conduct of mass testing in the areas with reported cases of COVID-19 infection.

According to Lagman, the remaining days before the expiration of the lockdown in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the rest of Luzon “will not be sufficient to adequately conduct mass testing” even for selected cases of persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs).

“It would be extremely difficult to implement initial selective and subsequent comprehensive mass testing in a dispersed and mobile population,” he said.

Lagman warned that the projected start of mass testing after the lockdown expiration will be only “counter-productive.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and leading medical experts like former Arroyo-era Health secretaries Esperanza Cabral and Manuel Dayrit have been exhorting that a lockdown cannot be effective without mass testing.

“Stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus is very complicated and cannot be answered by isolation and social distancing alone because so many COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic,” said Lagman.

Lagman said these patients can unknowingly be virus carriers and contribute to the more rapid spread of the disease, thus making mass testing more crucial.

He added that mass testing can initially help segregate persons who are infected from those who are free from infection.

Meanwhile, Lagman said that any extension of the Luzon lockdown must be coupled with continued social amelioration packages for the disadvantaged sectors and displaced workers as well as steady food supply.

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