MANILA, Philippines – The government plans to isolate confirmed patients and patients under investigation (PUI) for the novel coronavirus by mid-April, National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr said on Wednesday, April 1.
Along with a plan to carry out “massive testing” for the virus, the NTF intends to seek out possible carriers of the virus and bring them to hospitals or designated quarantine facilities, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
“Based on the timetable given to us by the President, we hope to take out all COVID-19 positive patients and persons under investigation from their communities by April 14,” Galvez said in a press statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
Galvez is the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
On Tuesday, March 31, Galvez named venues the government is looking to convert into “forced quarantine facilities,” such as stadiums, convention halls, hotels, and ships.
Besides these, local government units (LGU) have also been ordered to designate public halls and other suitable spaces as quarantine areas.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Wednesday said severe and moderate cases of COVID-19 who need more specialized care will be the priority at hospitals.
Mild cases and PUIs will be cared for in other quarantine facilities that are not hospitals.
Persons under monitoring (PUM) for the disease will also be isolated, and Galvez said they may also be housed in quarantine facilities.
A PUI is someone who has two or all of the following:
- History of travel in the past 14 days to countries with local transmissions and risk of importation of the virus
- History of exposure to a confirmed case
- Symptoms of respiratory illness (cough and/or colds) and/or fever
Meanwhile, a PUM is someone who has a history of travel to a virus-hit country or exposure to a coronavirus patient.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF), the policy-making body on top of the NTF, clarified that the government isn’t planning on “forced internment” of coronavirus patients, PUIs, and PUMs.
Guevarra was responding to a question on Galvez’ use of the term “forced quarantine.”
“What has been discussed is the conversion of certain big structures and buildings like the PICC when regular hospitals reach their maximum room capacity. LGUs have also been required to provide quarantine or isolation centers in their respective jurisdictions to address the needs of families with not enough space in their homes,” Guevarra said.
Nograles said the mechanics for managing PUMs, who are deemed less likely infected than PUIs, were still being formalized.
The recent delivery of some 168,000 test kits from China, Singapore, and South Korea has the NTF looking at “massive testing” of PUIs and PUMs – not the general public – in the coming days.
Galvez said the task force wants to get “a bigger picture of the geographic affectation,” or a more accurate idea of the disease’s prevalence.
If PUMs and PUIs are properly tested and, if necessary, transferred to quarantine centers, local officials would then “evaluate” their neighborhoods and barangays starting April 15.
Those evaluations shall become the basis for declaring communities as “cleared from the disease,” Galvez said.
In the OPAPP statement, the former military general denied that the strategy he described is a “military solution.”
He said, “rather [it is] a medical solution wherein our goal is to provide life-saving health services to people as quickly and efficiently as possible, since in reality, logistics and capacity will dominate the health care response when the virus becomes more widespread and the number of COVID-19 patients exponentially increase.”
Experts and health officials said that with increased testing, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines is bound to rise and may surge just when the monthlong lockdown of Luzon is scheduled to end on April 12.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded 2,311 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 96 deaths and 50 recoveries. – with a report from Lian Buan/Rappler.com