The government aims to build “around a thousand isolation facilities” and is ready to book school dormitories if these quarantine centers are still not enough, according to the Palace spokesman.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Palace vows ‘invigorated’ COVID-19 response
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Megafacility occupancy rate in danger zone – DOH

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s measures against the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic would be “invigorated” by further expanding testing efforts and building more isolation facilities, Malacañang vowed yesterday, as the health department warned that occupancy rate in megafacilities in Metro Manila is now in the “danger zone.”

“Things will not be the same, there will be major changes in our response to the pandemic,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.

“The people will now see the difference in the response that we will have. It is now thoroughly invigorated, and part of it is we build capacity and we now have the capacity to do what we wanted from the very beginning. The people will see that there will be expanded targeted testing, beyond numbers that they probably would not have imagined,” Roque added.

The government aims to build “around a thousand isolation facilities” and is ready to book school dormitories if these quarantine centers are still not enough, according to the Palace spokesman.

“We will actually attempt to isolate everyone who will turn out positive, because the experience of other countries is it’s only in this manner that they were able to control the spread of the disease,” he said.

Roque expects the number of tests conducted daily to increase as the government is eyeing pooled testing, where a testing kit can be used to test 10 to 20 persons.

“Right now, we have reached 30,000 more or less a day. But we are going to get more... The pool testing will expand our test, actual testing to at least times 10,” he added.

‘Now in danger zone’

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday said that aside from hospitals, the five large-scale temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMF) in Metro Manila are now in “danger zone.”

In a press briefing yesterday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the five mega Local Isolation and General Treatment Areas for COVID-19 cases (LIGTAS COVID) Centers – PhilSports Arena (Ultra Stadium) in Pasig City, Quezon Institute in Quezon City, Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila, Philippine Arena in Bulacan and ASEAN Convention Center in Pampanga – have already reached more than 70-percent occupancy rate.

These mega centers are the large-scale versions of those that were set up in communities and are being run by the provincial local government units.

The mega-TTMFs are managed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The LIGTAS COVID Centers in five regions are also experiencing a surge in patients undergoing quarantine, according to Vergeire.

“The TTMF utilization in the National Capital Region and Regions 1, 7, 10 and 12 (is in the) 30-to-70 percent utilization rate, or they are in the warning zone,” she said.

In the past weeks, the government has been encouraging asymptomatic and mild patients to undergo their 14-day quarantine at TTMFs and not in hospitals, which are reserved for critical and severely ill patients and to prevent the hospitals from being overwhelmed.

As a protocol, even confirmed COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the illness should undergo their step-down quarantine at TTMFs.

Many of the patients, however, have refused to be transferred to TTMFs as they opted to complete quarantine in hospital.

No victory

There will be no declaration of victory for Malacañang this time as it admitted that the country would not beat a University of the Philippines prediction that it would have a cumulative 85,000 coronavirus disease cases by the end of the month.

Yesterday, the Philippines surpassed the projected figure as the total number of COVID-19 cases went further up at 85,486, the second in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, which has more than 104,000.

The number of infections in the country continues to rise by the hundreds every day, but officials have claimed that such a trend is expected due to an expanded testing capacity.

Last month, Roque was heavily criticized for saying that the Philippines had “won” because the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines did not reach 40,000 by the end of June as predicted by UP. The number of infections in the country was about 37,500 at that time.

Roque later clarified that he did not view UP as the enemy and that he was just emphasizing that ordinary people should do their part in fighting the pandemic.

Speaking to CNN Philippines yesterday, Roque said critics of his remark already got what they wanted.

“Those who made fun of my excitement, well, you got what you wanted. The forecast happened, and I see no reason why we should celebrate,” the Palace spokesman said when asked whether the Philippines could still beat the UP forecast of 85,000 cases by July 31.

“It’s very sad, but as I have conferred with professor Ranjit Rye, we should always aim to beat the forecast because we have the tools,” he added.

Nevertheless, Roque maintained that the government’s response to the pandemic was not an absolute failure.

“I think we’ve been rather successful because we’ve limited the mortality rate, and in the end, that’s what matters – how many people perished because of the pandemic,” he said, noting that the death rate is still way below the world threshold.

Roque reiterated that the number of infections in the Philippines would have reached 3.5 million if the government did not act on the virus.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bong Go expressed gratitude to President Duterte for supporting many of people-centered, service-oriented proposed measures that have always been aligned with the President’s legislative agenda.

These measures, Go said, aim to help the government become more efficient, effective and responsive to the changing times as the country faces tougher challenges amid the pandemic.

The President is expected to announce today updated quarantine classifications of areas.

Roque said the government’s pandemic task force already has recommendations, but some local governments are still appealing their classification. – Sheila Crisostomo, Romina Cabrera, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Neil Jayson Servallos

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