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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

01 December 2020 01:04:53 PM

The House of Representatives will continue to operate under strict health and safety protocols after almost a hundred people tested positive for COVID-19 during the first-ever mass testing it conducted since the start of the pandemic.

House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza gave this assurance as he confirmed that a total of 98 individuals turned out COVID-19 positive in the mass testing initiated by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

He said the number represents nearly 5 percent of 2,000 House lawmakers and employees who underwent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing since Nov. 10.

“It’s the first time a mass testing was conducted in the House since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, and this happened less than one month after Speaker Velasco assumed office,” Mendoza pointed out.

“Speaker Velasco ordered the mass testing to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the Batasan Complex, while the legislative chamber carries out its constitutional duties amid the pandemic,” he added.

According to Mendoza, almost all COVID-19 positive cases were asymptomatic. “All those who tested positive were directed to self-isolate to avoid passing the virus to others and immediate tracing of their close contacts was conducted,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the House is now coordinating with the Quezon City government for the conduct of a more extensive contract tracing.

He also said the testing laboratory commissioned by the House has reported the cases to the Department of Health, while the chamber’s in-house medical service made proper coordination with concerned Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams.

Prior to Nov. 10, the House already registered more than 80 COVID-19 cases since March. Almost all of them have recovered, except for two lawmakers and three employees who succumbed to the disease.

Mendoza said the increase in COVID-19 cases was expected since the testing covered everyone in the House, not just those with symptoms.

“Because it was mass testing for all officials, employees and guests entering the Batasan Complex, we caught even the asymptomatic cases who could be transmitters if we didn’t find out they were COVID positive,” Mendoza explained.

He said all House members and employees reporting for work were required to undergo RT-PCR test with Velasco taking the lead by having himself tested at the chamber’s own testing facility last Nov. 10.

Mendoza said the lawmakers and House workers also continue to undergo regular testing, especially when going inside the plenary hall.

He added that the House has been implementing strict health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all the offices and buildings within the Batasan Complex.

Visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before they can be granted access to the offices inside the complex.

All those entering the House need to wear masks and face shields, pass through thermal scanners and disinfection machines, and observe physical distancing at all times.

House members, employees and guests are required to submit an accomplished health declaration form to inform the chamber of their health status before being allowed to enter its premises.

Cleaning and disinfection of all offices and buildings within the complex are done on a daily basis.

The House is also conducting a hybrid session that combines physical presence with teleconferencing.

This allows the chamber to continue with the unhampered performance of its constitutional mandate amid the pandemic and with due consideration on the health and safety of its members and staff.

Under this setup, members are allowed to register their attendance, participate and vote on any matter presented to the body through telecommunications and/or online messaging and email using their pre-registered contact numbers and email addresses duly verified by the Secretary General.