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Vague home quarantine rules blamed for rise in cases

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Vague home quarantine rules blamed for rise in cases
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said it was not clear previously that people with mild or no symptoms of the disease could only isolate themselves at home if they have their own room and bathroom.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH)’s failure to clarify guidelines on persons with mild or no symptoms of COVID-19 was one of the reasons behind the spike of infections in the country, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said it was not clear previously that people with mild or no symptoms of the disease could only isolate themselves at home if they have their own room and bathroom.

“I think what the DOH said was not clear – that the asymptomatic and mild can stay home. They did not clarify that you must have your own room and bathroom. It is one of the reasons why the numbers increased. But we are rectifying it now, we have fully intensified our testing,” Roque said in Filipino and English at a press briefing.

Officials have discouraged home quarantine following the continuous increase in the number of persons who caught the virus.

To contain the spread of the disease, the government is implementing Oplan Kalinga, a program that would bring infected persons who have mild or no symptoms to quarantine facilities. Roque said the government would be able to test everyone in Metro Manila if it increases its testing centers.

“I think we would calibrate our intensified full testing with the building of more isolation centers. Less than two weeks since we announced Oplan Kalinga, the isolation centers have been filled up,” Roque said.

“I have to recognize that the DOH perhaps should have been clearer at the onset that you may stay at home if you have your own room and your own bathroom,” he added.

The Philippines now has more than 72,000 COVID-19 cases, the second in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, which has nearly 92,000 cases.

No nationwide lockdown

Meanwhile, National Task Force against COVID-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Wednesday that the government could not afford to revert back to a nationwide lockdown.

“The National Action Plan (NAP) Phase 2’s main goal is to rehabilitate our economy and ensure that our health capacity can cope with the cases,” he said.

The containment and management of new COVID cases in high-risk areas, he added, are also among the main objectives of NAP Phase 2. This is aside from sustaining the wins against COVID-19 and continuing the best practices, balancing the nation’s health and economic welfare, localizing response by rallying people’s support and participation as well as keeping a low fatality rate.

Galvez emphasized that the NAP Phase 2 centers on “saving lives and mitigating the impact as one, towards economic and social recovery.”

Its implementation, he said, is gaining ground as local government units (LGUs) ramp up their testing and contact tracing capabilities as the national government and private sector continue to forge partnerships to establish more testing laboratories across the country.

According to Galvez, the marked improvement in health conditions in areas across the country is a testament to the effective leadership shown by LGUs, particularly in strictly enforcing quarantine guidelines and scaling up their testing capacities.

“We saw that the cases are decreasing and at the same time, deaths are also in decline,” he noted.

As the NAP Phase 2 plan is a multi-pronged approach, it also seeks to institutionalize the “Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate” strategy and zoning concept as well as focus on highlighting the importance of business continuity and sustainability plans, proper management of returning overseas Filipinos and locally stranded individuals and local travelers, as well as raising the country’s expanded and targeted testing and contact tracing capability.

Galvez said LGUs in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other parts of the country are demonstrating that localized approaches can be highly effective in fighting and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in their localities.

For instance, in the NCR, the first free “walk-in” COVID testing center at the Ospital ng Sampaloc was opened, while a drive-thru testing center in Manila was inaugurated earlier this month.

In Taguig, the city’s testing capacity has increased to more than 1,000 tests per day, thanks to a partnership between the local government and Enderun Colleges.

Based on the DOH’s COVID-19 Philippine situationer report, the total tests conducted nationwide as of July 19 reached 1,142,165, breaching the one million mark way ahead of the July 31 target the agency had set.

Galvez said that boosting the nation’s testing capacity has been one of the primary goals of the government since the onset of the pandemic. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Emmanuel Tupas

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