The completion of the COVID testing facility at the Ospital Ng Palawan is a medical milestone for the island province’s lone battle against the pandemic.

The laboratory facility, a genExpert platform that approximates the capability of the so-called RT-PCR “gold standard” used in the RITM laboratories, will facilitate the mass testing support needed as a health safety measure to ease the current quarantine restrictions.

The Department of Health certified the laboratory this week and issued the facility its permit to operate. Technicians have been trained for its use. The provincial government has also bared plans to put up four additional similar facilities in the next few months to cover the entire mainland including the Calamianes.

The days when we used to wait for at least two weeks for swab results from suspect cases to return are over. We can now begin testing a wider segment of the population without having to wait in line for weeks on end.

With mass testing becoming locally feasible, both Puerto Princesa City and Palawan’s policymakers are now enabled to draw up plans towards normalcy, aided by information on how we are doing to contain the spread of coronavirus. These tests allow us to identify patients that need to be isolated and treated, and prevent the contamination of others.

We have a flat curve, so to speak, and in an advantageous position.

The deployment of the laboratory into the battle against COVID-19 will most likely spin upwards the number of positive cases in the province. It is, however, not a cause for deep worry and is no more scarier than not knowing where we stand in terms of how good or bad our situation is. This is because it allows us to minimize the spread of the virus and buy us time until medical science and technology finally defeat this pandemic.

This development should prompt our own policymakers to shift our focus towards recovery from the social and economic impacts of the strict lockdowns that we went through.

Palawan currently remains under some border controls. While such solution restricts the potential spread of coronavirus, it also constraints economic and social activities and movements, with dire consequences on the quality of people’s lives. Now is the right time to revisit this approach, towards easing the restrictions carefully and responsibly.

More importantly now, it is the time to focus on firming up a blueprint and map for recovery under the so-called “new normal”.

It is not a challenge solely to the politicians and the policymakers. It is a bigger challenge to all sectors of society, to identify and adopt new ways and norms and thus define our future.

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