Amid calls of #NoToVIPTesting, officials apologize for getting COVID-19 test

Mar 23, 2020

WITH the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, online ire has been directed at officials perceived to have received VIP treatment in the face of a lack of test kits.

Two of those officials have apologized.

Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla has admitted that he “may have skipped the line in getting myself tested,” he said in a Facebook post.

“I take full responsibility for taking advantage of my position,” he added.

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On March 18, Remulla said, he learned that he had been in a meeting with someone with a recent history of fever two days before. The governor had himself swabbed and samples sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) — as of now the only laboratory in the Philippines capable of testing samples of SARS-CoV-2, as the novel coronavirus is officially known.

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At the time the RITM had a testing capacity of 450 tests per day.

Remulla is awaiting the results of his test, expected to arrive this week.

Early today, Senator Francis Tolentino also offered “apologies for those offended” by an earlier (and now deleted) announcement where he revealed that he had tested negative for COVID-19.

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In his apology statement, Tolentino explained that after exposure to a person confirmed for COVID-19, he had been suffering from persistent cough over the past four days.

“If I came out positive, I would have posted it as well to inform the people especially those who came in contact with me,” he continued.

According to the DOH’s own triage guidelines, persons who have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient do not immediately need to be tested, unless they are elderly, show severe and critical symptoms, or are comorbid with another chronic disease.

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However, in an interview with Dobol B sa News TV, DOH undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that “most personalities” that have been accused of VIP treatment were qualified for COVID-19 testing.

“'Yun pong mga sinasabi nilang na-test na mga high level officials, most of them pumasok sa criteria namin. May exposure sila, nakapag-travel sila so they were tested,” she said.

#MassTestingNgayonNa is currently one of the trending hashtags on Twitter, with more than 8,000 tweets as of writing. Many users also used the hashtag #NOtoVIPTesting to express their anger at these high-level officials.

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In the NBA, similar accusations were leveled when NBA players were able to get tested for COVID-19. New York City Mayor was the most high profile critic, saying in a tweet, “[W]ith all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested.”

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended the practice on ESPN’s SportsCenter, saying that “the fundamental issue is obviously there are insufficient tests.”

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