July 22, 2020, 09.10 PM

MANILA, KOMPAS.com – On Tuesday, the Philippines announced that it would be ramping up Covid-19 testing to detect the deadly novel virus.

The government’s decision comes amid a sharp uptick in infections and deaths following the easing of lockdown restrictions in June.

The country’s President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest citizens and residents who are not wearing a mask.

Read also: Indonesia’s Bio Farma to Produce Up to 250 Million Doses of Covid-19 Vaccines

The number of Covid-19 tests conducted in the Philippines range between 20,000 and 23,000 per day, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

Duque shared the government’s plan to increase daily testing to 32,000 to 40,000 people.

He also stated that while the country has tested 1.1 million people for the Covid-19 virus so far, the government aims to test 10 million people by the second quarter of the year.

Should the country reach the 10-million mark, it would be testing a tenth of the country’s population.

"We cannot test every citizen as no country has done it even the richest, the United States," Duque said.

Read also: Indonesia Starts Domestic Production of PCR Test Kits

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranks second to Indonesia in terms of the number of infections and deaths, with cases jumping nearly four-fold to 68,898 and deaths nearly doubling to 1,835 since the government relaxed lockdown measures in June.

Lockdowns have been reimposed in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Of 30 countries most impacted by the pandemic, the Philippines ranked 24th in terms of testing rate, data from statistics aggregator Statista showed.

Duterte threatened to arrest anyone who spread the virus, refused to wear masks or keep a safe distance from others.

Read also: President Jokowi Forms New Committee to Curb Covid-19, Revive Economy

The tough-talking Rodrigo Duterte warned in April that violators of lockdown rules could be shot for causing trouble.

"We do not have any qualms in arresting people," Duterte said in a recorded address aired on Tuesday. It was a "serious crime" to spread the Covid-19 respiratory disease, he added.

"If you are brought to the police station and detained there, that would give you a lesson for all time," he said of anyone caught not wearing a mask.

Last week, officials said health workers and police would take patients with mild or no symptoms from their homes and place them in isolation centers, raising concerns about possible human rights violations.

(Writers: Neil Jerome Morales, Karen Lema | Editors: Ed Davies, Stephen Coates) 

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-philippines/philippines-to-ramp-up-coronavirus-testing-as-duterte-warns-of-arrests-idUSKCN24M0ET

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