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DOH says COVID-19 preps, measures enough to prevent monkeypox entry

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DOH says COVID-19 preps, measures enough to prevent monkeypox entry
This photo taken on February 23, 2020 shows a worker cleaning chairs at the boarding area while arriving passengers disembark at the international airport in Manila.
AFP / Romeo Gacad

MANILA, Philippines — The national government is standing pat on its preparations against the coronavirus pandemic, saying there is no need to close borders just yet as these are ample protection against the worldwide monkeypox outbreak.

Speaking at the Laging Handa briefing Wednesday afternoon, Edsel Salvana of the DOH Technical Advisory Group said that the country's monitoring of coronavirus variants along with public health standards such as the wearing of masks should already act as protection against monkeypox, a disease endemic to Africa. 

According to the Department of Health, cases have been detected in at least 12 countries including the United States, Canada, and Australia. A total of 85 cases have been recorded around the world in recent days. 

"We already have layers of protection in our system, and so far these have shown anyway their value and were able to slow down the introduction of new variants and of new infectious diseases," he said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"Our strategies don't change, and we'll still be doing the same things with contact tracing and isolation...but again, this is something we just need to watch closely, but it's not on the same level as COVID-19."

Salvana was careful to highlight that the monkeypox had a "very stable genome," which meant the chances it can mutate are slim to none. This also means it's easier for authorities to trace where it comes from in the event it breaches the country's borders.

READ: COVID-19 task force adviser suggests against closing borders amid monkeypox outbreak

"Monkeypox will definitely be covered [by these strategies], because the monitoring, we make sure that people aren’t symptomatic when they’re on the planes," Salvana said. 

"And this, the use of masks, it will be even more effective against monkeypox than COVID, and our monitoring of other infectious diseases that are always a risk to get into our borders is also covered."

Outgoing presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar echoed these sentiments at a Palace briefing Tuesday, pointing to the existing strategies and downplaying the danger of the disease. He did not mention any talks of a possible border closure. 

"The Department of Health and other national agencies are intensifying our four-door strategy and will also strengthen the screening process at our borders to prevent the entry of monkeypox here in our country," he said in Filipino. 

"As for our countrymen, we continue to urge you to strictly follow the minimum public health standards. It was also explained to us by [Health Undersecretary Dr. Abdullah Dumama] that this monkeypox is not that dangerous. He says 1% is the fatality [rate] and this is not a new disease."

What is the four-door strategy?

To recall, the "Four-Door Strategy" is the framework of the Department of Health's National Emergency Operational Response Plan to prevent and control emerging infectious diseases.

The Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate approach is part of this Four Door Strategy, the health agency said in a graphic issued this week.

The strategy includes:

  • Point of Origin: Strict border controls for all travelers from other high-risk countries and areas as a primary level of defense.
  • Point of Entry: Screening, testing, and quarantine at points of entry to the country to prevent importation to the community.
  • Point of Care: A community response plus safe and effective vaccination to prevent widespread community transmission.
  • Healthcare System: Capacitating health workers, isolating possible patients, and providing the necessary facilities, equipment, and medicines at work to keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

"The DOH together with various government agencies are working together to prevent it from entering the country. We remind our countrymen to always adhere to minimum public health standards," Health Undersecretary Abdullah Dumama Jr. also said at President Duterte's Talk to the People on Monday night. 

"As an adviser [to the NTF against COVID-19], I will not recommend closing our borders just because there are reported cases," Dr. Ted Herbosa, the medical adviser of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 also said in Filipino in an interview over Laging Handa on Saturday.

Franco Luna 

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

MONKEYPOX

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