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'No home quarantine' rule put on hold – Roque

The Philippine government has put on hold its plan to ban the home quarantine of persons with COVID-19 until it can get inputs from local governments that will implement the rule.

The approval of the rule was "held in abeyance pending consultations with LGUs (local government units)," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told Rappler on Friday, September 11.

Only 3 days ago, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had said they planned to implement the home quarantine ban "within the week."

But the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) decided not to approve the rule just yet during their meeting on Thursday, September 10.

Roque said the postponement of the rule's implementation was not due to any protest from local government chiefs.

Even within the task force, there were contradictions about the rule announced by Año. The Department of Health, whose Secretary chairs the IATF-EID, said home quarantine would still be "encouraged" if coronavirus patients have their own room and toilet at home, are not living with elderly persons, and they can be regularly checked by their Barangay Health Emergency Response Team.

Burden on local governments

A ban on home quarantine would be an additional burden to local governments.

It would mean that cities and provinces would need to ensure there are enough government-approved isolation facilities to accommodate all their constituents with COVID-19. Not all local governments would have the capability.

The ability of certain persons, especially those in the middle to high-income classes, to quarantine in their own houses have opened up space in isolation facilities for people in lower-income households who live in cramped homes where proper self-isolation is impossible.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, chief executive of the largest city in COVID-19 epicenter Metro Manila, said she supports a ban on home quarantine as long as certain conditions are met.

"Quezon City is in favor of this proposal given that, as per our data, home or family infections are the most predominant means of transmission to date," she told Rappler.

Quezon City, a wealthy city, has 3,000 quarantine beds, allowing them to accommodate even suspected and probable coronavirus cases.

But Belmonte said the national government needs to help local governments make it easier to require compliance to the rule among the middle to upper class.

"The IATF needs to support the LGU by way of contracting hotels in which those living in gated communities, who are usually not satisfied with being isolated in city and barangay facilities, which lack the comforts they are accustomed to, can be accommodated," she said.

The task force identified improper home isolation as one major source of COVID-19 infections in places like Cebu City, Bacolod City, and parts of Metro Manila.

Bacolod City, under modified enhanced community quarantine until September 30, has decided to transfer almost 500 COVID-19 cases from their homes to isolation facilities, upon the advice of Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the government's anti-COVID-19 plan. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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