MANILA (UPDATED)— Government on Friday released guidelines for home quarantine in a bid to prevent hospital congestion as COVID-19 cases continued to rise.
COVID-positive individuals with symptoms may isolate at home if they have their own room and bathroom, according to Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.
All household members are exposed and are considered close contacts, Vergeire said.
They can quarantine at home if they have no symptoms, have no comorbidities, they are not mixed with COVID-positive persons, and if they follow minimum public health standards such as wearing of face masks, proper hand hygiene, and observance of physical distancing.
"Para naman po sa mga indibidwal na naga-isolate at nakakaranas ng mild to moderate symptoms, i-maximize ang paggamit ng telemedicine services," she said during a virtual public briefing.
"Iwas transmission at iwas sana rin ito sa pagpuno ng ating mga ospital."
All virus patients, regardless of vaccination status, who are asymptomatic or experience mild to moderate symptoms must isolate for 10 days or at the advice of their doctor, Vergeire said.
Severe and critical patients must isolate for 21 days or at the advice of their doctor, she added.
Government has shortened the isolation period of fully vaccinated medical frontliners in consideration of hospitals' capacity, according to Vergeire.
ANTIGEN TEST RESULTS
Individuals with symptoms who turn out positive in antigen tests will likely also yield a positive result in an RT-PCR test and must isolate immediately, according to Vergeire. The same goes for their asymptomatic close contacts who have a positive antigen test result, she said.
"If in doubt, hindi po kailangan maghintay ng pag-test. Isolate, isolate, isolate," she said.
Asymptomatic close contacts who have a negative antigen test result must quarantine and take an RT-PCR test after day 5 of their exposure, she added.
Individuals who are symptomatic but have a negative antigen test result must undergo a confirmatory swab or RT-PCR test, Vergeire said.
Those who are asymptomatic and were not exposed to virus patients but turn out positive in an antigen test must immediately isolate and consult a health care professional, according to the spokesperson.
Asymptomatic persons who were not exposed to COVID patients and turn out negative in an antigen test must follow minimum public health standards, she added.
Dr. Ted Herbosa, special advisor of National Task Force Against COVID-19, admitted that the policy change on home quarantine was due to the continued surge of infections in the country.
“Remember last year the National Task Force didn’t want home quarantine. But this time, apparently, we're learning because it’s so expensive to actually set up temporary treatment facilities plus the manpower that will watch them plus the food that you will feed them. So today the government has become a little bit more wise because, economically, we shouldn’t be doing that so a lot of people who can do home quarantine are allowed by their local government units to do home quarantine," he said.
Dr. Benjamin Co, pediatric infectious diseases expert, meanwhile said he's not convinced that the Omicron variant "is the beginning of the end" of the pandemic, which other health professionals hope to be.
"This is not the beginning of the end … I don’t think it will be. This is cautious optimism, we're optimistic that hopefully, it should end somewhere, and as all pandemic, what happens during an endemic state when there is endemicity, there will be surges. But the surges will be minimal and this will still continue until it will practically look like a cold though a lot of people eventually," he said.
— With a report from Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News