Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr., also the chief implementer of the national action plan of the task force against COVID-19, pointed out that it is still premature to say with finality the possible extension of the quarantine period.
Miguel De Guzman
Government mulls 15-day quarantine extension
Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) - April 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The national task force against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is studying whether the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to stop the spread of the virus could be extended for a maximum of 15 days beyond the April 12 deadline. 

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr., also the chief implementer of the national action plan of the task force against COVID-19, pointed out that it is still premature to say with finality the possible extension of the quarantine period.

“We are still studying whether it will be extended. It is still premature to make an announcement at this point in time. We have to involve our scientists, doctors, specialists in looking for the reference model of other countries,” Galvez told radio dzBB.

Galvez said the Luzon-wide lockdown has resulted in the slower increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 positive patients.

He, however, admitted that the case of COVID-19 is still rising in some areas of the country, with Metro Manila remaining the epicenter of COVID-19 and adjacent Regions III and IV getting higher numbers of people infected with the virus.

“We cannot rush normalcy only to return to lockdown. There are countries that implemented two, three lockdowns because the surge of new cases returned when they relaxed. We will study it carefully to sustain the good results of the lockdown,” Galvez said.

He said the people should protect themselves from COVID-19 by wearing face masks at all times while outside their houses, adding that those who will repeatedly violate the government’s policy of masks-wearing will be arrested.

Three weeks into the implementation of the quarantine in Luzon, Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles, who is also the spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), is now assessing the trends that would determine the epidemiological curve of the COVID-19 in the country.

The scientific analysis and the assessment of the capacity of the country’s health care system would be the basis for the government to determine whether the quarantine scheduled to last until April 12 would be extended, Nograles said yesterday.

According to Nograles, the IATF sub-technical working group (TWG) on Data Analytics will work on the trends in the COVID-19 epidemiological curve, which include, among others, the doubling time, acceleration or deceleration of new cases.

The group will also look into the capacity of the health care system that includes the number and availability of quarantine, isolation and treatment facilities; the capability to mount contact tracing; availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontliners and the testing capacity of the country.

The IATF will also be looking at social, economic and security factors before deciding on the total or partial lifting or the possible extension of the quarantine in Luzon.

“For this purpose, the Department of Health (DOH) is hereby directed to convene all concerned agencies and to finalize the aggregation and analysis of all relevant data applicable to the contained area, subject to the deliberation of the IATF and final determination by the President,” Nograles said, quoting from IATF Resolution No. 19 approved by the body on Friday.

“Provided, that the same sub-TWG is likewise directed to apply said parameters and come up with recommendations with regard to the possible implementation of a general or enhanced community quarantine in localities in the Visayas and Mindanao,” the resolution added.

The DOH and the Department of Public Works and Highways have identified the Philippine International Convention Center, World Trade Center and Rizal Sports Stadium as quarantine and isolation areas for those classified as persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs), as well as those with mild symptoms of the disease.  

The more serious cases of COVID-19 patients would be confined in the hospitals. The Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines are among the government hospitals tasked for treatment of positive COVID-19 patients.

Rapid testing kits

According to Nograles, the IATF also directed the DOH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to draft the necessary guidelines for the utilization of FDA-approved COVID-19 rapid test kits, including the lateral flow assay kits, for the conduct of more aggressive testing.

This will also complement the existing capacity of the country to conduct reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

The IATF also expressed gratitude for the assistance of private firms and individuals for helping in the efforts to combat the pandemic.   

While there are establishments that have rejected our frontliners, Nograles said there are generous souls that have opened their doors to our doctors and nurses. 

He cited for example The Oriental Hotel chain, with branches in Legazpi, Mariveles and Leyte, which is opening up their hotels and offering close to 300 rooms for health workers. 

Another hotel, Villa Amada in Legazpi, is offering 20 rooms, while five hotels in Naga are offering a total of 111 rooms for frontliners. 

The IATF also welcomed the offer of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), which had agreed to let the government use the whole Ciudad de Victoria estate to isolate and quarantine COVID-19 cases. 

The INC has allowed the use of its facilities located in Bocaue, Bulacan namely, the Philippine Arena, Philippine Sports Stadium and The Garden Suites. 

“There will be facilities not just for patients but for our frontliners. Once everything is readied, the whole complex will have an estimated 1,065 rooms for patients, while frontliners will be able to share 476 suites good for two to four health workers each. Maraming salamat, Ka Eduardo Manalo,” Nograles said. – Christina Mendez

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