MANILA — Around 7.2 percent of healthcare workers in Metro Manila are undergoing COVID-19 quarantine, an official said Tuesday, as the country battled another wave of coronavirus infections.
"Gusto kong i-report ngayon na dito po sa Metro Manila, we have almost na-quarantine, na-isolate na healthcare workers, mga aabot na yata ng 6,595 out of 91,838 healthcare workers. So, mga 7.2% ito under quarantine," said Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega.
(I want to report that currently, here in Metro Manila, we have about 6,595 out of 91,838 healthcare workers who are quarantined and have isolated. Around 7.2 percent are under quarantine.)
This has forced some hospitals to close some services to focus their manpower on COVID-19 response, said Vega, the country's coronavirus treatment chief.
"Ang nakikita natin is nagko-close iyong mga some services like elective surgeries, OPD (outpatient department) and the rest, like diagnostic, para lang maka-cover ngayon sa mga healthcare workers na na-isolate o naka-quarantine," he said in a Palace press briefing.
(What we are seeing is some services are closing, like elective surgeries, OPD and the rest, like diagnostic, to cover the healthcare workers who are on isolation or quarantine.)
To ensure that health facilities will have enough manpower, the government recently shortened the isolation period to 5 days for coronavirus-stricken medical workers who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, said Presidential Adviser for COVID-19 Response Vince Dizon.
Close contacts no longer need to isolate if they have no COVID-19 symptoms, he said on Monday.
The shortened quarantine only applies in "extreme circumstances" and should be approved by a hospital's infection prevention and control committee, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
"For instance, iyong sa pagku-quarantine, naka-quarantine dahil na-expose, so it is the hospitals, the health experts in those hospitals, those committees na mag-a-assess doon sa mga na-expose na healthcare workers kung fit na ba sila to be brought back in circulation," he said in Tuesday's briefing.
"It is only done in extreme circumstances, kung kinakailangan dahil nga po need nga po noong hospitals na iyon ‘no, and para hindi mag-suffer ang health services," he continued.
(For instance, one goes on quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19, it is the hospitals, the health experts in those hospitals, those committees who will assess if exposed healthcare workers are fit to be brought back in circulation. It is only done in extreme circumstances, if it is needed by a hospital so that health services will not suffer.)
WHY REDUCE QUARANTINE?
Video courtesy of PTV
The move to reduce the quarantine period for health workers is backed by peer-reviewed data from the US and Europe, said Vega.
He said due to the omicron variant’s high transmissibility, it has a shorter incubation period of 2 to 3 days, compared to the variant that emerged from Wuhan, China in late 2019, which incubates for 5 to 7 days.
“Kaya naging 5 days ‘yan (The reason why the quarantine was reduced to 5 days), especially for the asymptomatic, is because we believe that on the 5th day and you are vaccinated, the viral load is very low and you can no longer transmit the virus or you’re not contagious,” he said.
The health department has proposed to “streamline” this protocol to cover the general public, Vega said. He added this would require the approval of the COVID-19 task force.
He said the health department sent some 7,000 medical frontliners to various Metro Manila hospitals, isolation centers, and testing centers to substitute for quarantined workers.
The Philippines' total COVID-19 cases breached the 3-million mark on Tuesday as it reported 28,007 more infections, the third highest-daily tally so far, data from the health department showed.
The healthcare system is at risk of being overwhelmed, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ANC, calling on symptomatic people to immediately isolate and get tested.
The government is studying whether the number of coronavirus-stricken health workers should be a fourth parameter for tightening an area's restrictions, Nograles said last week.
— With a report from Reuters