Politics

Lacson-Sotto tandem commits free COVID-19 testing

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PRESIDENTIAL aspirant and Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr., and his running mate Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, assured continued free vaccines, including booster shots, and testing for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) if they win next year.

The tandem told the media during a weekly online briefing that they are also against a policy of mandatory vaccination, but will push for programs that will “encourage vaccinations.”

“I will go to the extent of convincing or inspiring our countrymen to do it rather than forcing (them),” said Mr. Sotto. “Right now, that’s how I look at it, I have yet to be convinced otherwise.”

Mr. Lacson agreed, noting that mandated vaccinations are a human rights issue.

“It is probably better to balance the incentives being given versus the disincentives,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino, citing a large company that accepted non-vaccinated workers, in exchange they will only work from home and receive less pay.

Effective Dec. 1, a national government order allows businesses to require inoculation for employees working on-site. Restaurants and government agencies will also be allowed to refuse entry or deny service to individuals who remain partly or totally unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated on-site employees are now required to undergo regular RT-PCR or antigen screenings at their own expense to be able to work.

Mr. Lacson aims to achieve the provision of free vaccinations and testing by first clamping down on corruption. “Without corruption, many of the government’s problems will disappear.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Sotto said the Health department and the government’s pandemic task force should conduct a “full-blown research” on the highly mutated Omicron variant first detected in South Africa. He claimed to have read research saying the symptoms of the new variant were mild so far.

The World Health Organization has said it was not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe symptoms. It said understanding the level of its severity “will take days to several weeks.”

Senator Pilar Juliana “Pia” S. Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, on Monday said that vaccine equity is a must, joining the call of African countries on behalf of the Philippine Senate.

During the panel discussion on United Nations affairs organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union Standing Committee in Madrid, Spain, she noted the importance of a proper healthcare system, while promoting the welfare and financial protection of healthcare workers.

During the discussion, she cited the Philippines’ initiatives on the procurement and delivery of vaccines, and supporting proposals made for a patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccines should be considered a global public good, Ms. Cayetano said, hence, exempt from the application of patents and copyrights. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan