Nurses' group hits revised COVID-19 testing, tracing policies

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Nurses' group hits revised COVID-19 testing, tracing policies
San Juan de Dios Hospital in Pasay City displays full capacity for COVID-19 cases sign on Jan. 14, 2022.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — An organization of nurses said Wednesday it is appalled by the decision of the Department of Health to roll back contact tracing efforts and prioritize the testing of people at risk.

“Much to our dismay, while we kept on calling the government for the improvement of public health measures for infection control such as free and accessible COVID tests with aggressive and systematic contact tracing, the DOH had revert back to year 2020 testing prioritization and would not prioritize contact tracing,” the Filipino Nurses United said.

“Aren’t these COVID policies indicators that the government has surrendered to COVID-19?” it added.

Last week, the DOH shortened the isolation and quarantine periods for fully vaccinated people infected with COVID-19 and their close contacts.

The agency also said that COVID-19 testing will focus on diagnosing health workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities. Asymptomatic close contacts are not required to get tested.

It likewise said that contract tracing—a key component in the government’s COVID-19 response—is no longer a priority intervention.

The protocols are being eased even if the virus is spreading at a speed not seen since the start of the pandemic.

“Even with increasing cases, current science on benefits of vaccination and features of Omicron variant makes us confident to shorten isolation and quarantine period, reserve testing when assessed by physician to be necessary for medical management, make testing optional when actions are the same regardless of test result,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said last week.

But the FNU stressed that the government should increase the capacity of the country’s healthcare system by hiring more nurses and “should not lower standards of health practice and protocols.”

The DOH reported 22,958 additional COVID-19 infections, bringing the active cases to 270,728. 

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