POLICYMAKERS are looking at enforcing a strict “no home quarantine” scheme to further control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among family members and in communities, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said yesterday.
Año said the National Task Force against COVID-19, chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on Monday had initial discussions about the need to strictly implement the new policy. Año is the task force’s vice chairman.
Año said there is a need for a stricter home quarantine regulation because “it is very important that they (infected individuals) are taken out of their house because family members are getting infected. This is for their own good and for the sake of their family members.
“It is best that we isolate (the infected), rich or poor. There is appropriate isolation facilities for everyone),” said Año, adding that well-to-do individuals may opt to be quarantined at hotels which have been temporarily converted to COVID isolation facilities.
At present, COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic are allowed to go on home quarantine provided they have a separate room and a separate comfort room, and there are no elderly or vulnerable individuals living in the house.
Health authorities are constrained to bring COVID-19 positives to quarantine facilities if families fail to meet even only one of the three requirements.
Año said the strict implementation of the no home quarantine scheme will still have exemption, citing the “very elderly” who may not be advisable to be taken to isolation facilities.
Asked when the strict no home quarantine scheme will be implemented, Año said: “Well, it has to be first approved by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and then it will be transformed into a Joint Memo Circular between DOH (Department of Health) and DILG.”
Año asked the public not to worry about the scheme saying “we are very considerate, we just want to lower the number of confirmed and positive cases.”
The IATF approved on Monday night Resolution 69-A that placed Lanao del Sur and Bacolod City under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from September 8 to 30.
Lorenzana, in a meeting convened by President Duterte, said high infection cases had been reported in these areas.
Lorenzana said the IATF and the National Task Force against COVID-19 is also monitoring the situation in Iloilo and General Santos City following similar developments.
He said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who was assigned as Cabinet “big brother” to Cebu due to the high number of Covid infections several months back, had now proceeded to Western Visayas to inspect and check on the situation there. Lorenzana and NTF Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. will go to General Santos next week.
Cimatu, along with testing czar Vince Dizon and contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong will be in Bacolod City on Wednesday to help assess the situation on the ground and determine what the city needs to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resolution 69-A approved by the IATF includes new guidelines for the public transportation sector, among them the implementation of a service contracting scheme and the use of automated fare collection system (AFCS) for cashless payments in public utility vehicles (PUVs).
The IATF, in issuing Resolution 69 on Monday night, adopted the recommendations of the Economic Development Cluster to provide safe, responsive and inclusive public transportation services during the COVID-19 period.
Also part of the approved measures are the service contracting of PUVs to subsidize public transport operations, incentivize PUV operators to return and serve commuters, restore livelihoods of displaced transport workers, among others. Under this measure the government will collect the fares from riders and pay the PUV operators assigned to a specific route a fixed amount.
Other measures are the setting up of an automated fare collection system to promote cashless payments and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the designation of dedicated lanes for PUVs in major routes along with specific stops and boarding stations to avoid commuters from quieting in streets, and the designation of bicycle lanes and racks, and walkways, to make cycling and walking safe, healthy and comfortable for the public.
Large corporations and companies registered in economic zones as well as government agencies are also now required to provide shuttle services for their employees or adopt alternative arrangements like cost-sharing and partial vouchers for the use of Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) to facilitate the transportation needs of their employees.
The said measures shall be effective once the Department of Transportation, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Labor and Employment, and other concerned agencies issued the necessary guidelines.
ONE HOSPITAL COMMAND CENTERS
Given the success of the first One Hospital Command (OHC), the Department of Health (DOH) is now looking at establishing local versions of the national government’s healthcare referral network aimed at helping decongest hospitals of COVID-19 patients.
In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire disclosed that they are now looking at the possibility of having OHCs to be managed by local government units.
“In the coming days, and in coordination with the different local governments, we will also be establishing One Hospital Command centers in the different regions,” said Vergeire, adding: “We will have similar centers in the regions to coordinate our referral system to our overall COVID-19 response.” Vergeire said the plan is stimulated by the initial success of the OHC, which was launched early last month.
According to OHC Operations Manager Dr. Bernadett Velasco, they have registered a 90 percent success rate in its ability to help COVID-19 patients and healthcare facilities.
To date, Velasco notes how the OHC has successfully closed 2,202 out of 2,447 cases.
“We are slowly improving the services provided by the One Hospital Command in ensuring that the demand for beds and facilities is appropriately and adequately met,” said Velasco.
The OHC is a centralized system where Filipinos can call the off-site center prior to seeking medical assistance so that they are guaranteed a slot at an available and appropriate healthcare facility.
Similarly, the OHC helps ensure the prevention of overloading of hospitals, as well as overburdening healthcare workers by facilitating the transfer of qualified patients to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs).
The OHC center is located at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Gymnasium in Guadalupe, Makati City.
Meanwhile, the local government of Taguig City yesterday placed two areas in Barangay Sta. Ana under localized community quarantine (LCQ) for 15 days.
Placed under LCQ are Pulong Kendi 2 and Samasipat. The lockdown took effect yesterday and will end on September 23.
Mayor Lino Cayetano said the move was based on the recommendation of the Taguig City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CEDSU) after the analysis of the results of the RT-PCR tests, active case finding and extensive contract tracing conducted in the said barangay. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Gerard Naval and Noel Talacay