'Forced quarantine’ eyed for people refusing to be under observation for 2019-nCov

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2020 04:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2020 05:28 PM

Commuters mostly wearing face masks cross at a busy street in Mandaluyong on February 5, 2020. The DOH clarifies that not everyone needs to wear facemasks and emphasized that hand washing, basic hygiene and health monitoring is still the best defense against the Novel Corona Virus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said it might resort to a "forced quarantine" for patients who refuse to be confined even if they show severe symptoms of the new coronavirus, a health official said Friday. 

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the DOH is already working with local government units and embassies to convince people to undergo voluntary isolation in hospitals, following exposure to people who tested positive of the 2019-nCoV. 

“If it comes to that [refusal to be confined], it might come to a forced quarantine,” the health official admitted.

“Ang government naman has the authority lalo na kung nakita natin na nagde-deteriorate (ang health), may sakit. But as much as possible we want it to be a dialogue at ma-convince natin sila to come willingly,” Domingo said.

(Our government has the authority to quarantine them, especially if their health is deteriorating and they are sick. But as much as possible, we want it to be a dialogue, to convince them so they will come willingly.)

Domingo said that out of the 215 patients being tested for the new coronavirus, nine have refused precautionary admission to a hospital.

“Of the 215 PUIs (patients under investigation), 184 are currently admitted and isolated. We have 9 who have refused admission and we are working on this,” Domingo said in a press conference on Friday.

Of the remaining patients, 17 have already been discharged but are under strict monitoring while two died due to other causes. Both tested negative for the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) but contracted pneumonia because of existing illnesses. The first one with HIV-AIDS was considered an immunocompromised patient while the other had an “underlying restrictive lung disease.”

The remaining 3 were Chinese nationals who tested positive for 2019-nCoV ARD after arriving in the Philippines. One had died, another already discharged after recovering from the disease and the last one, a 38-year-old woman still in the hospital for treatments.

The 38-year-old woman, who is considered the Philippines’ first confirmed case of 2019-nCoV ARD had her last lab test done on Thursday. This already tested negative for 2019-nCoV but protocol requires two consecutive tests to be negative before she is discharged.

Domingo could not confirm how many of the 9 PUIs who refused admission are foreign nationals, and noted that language barrier and concerns about the cost of hospitalization are issues they needed to face. 

“Although at this point the government is shouldering the expenses of these patients. Several personal reasons,” he said.

He also said that the agency’s legal department is still studying what can be done if forced quarantine will be required.

While majority of the 215 PUIs are in hospitals, 57 have already tested negative for the disease. The DOH is also awaiting results for 155 of the patients. 

As of Friday morning, there have been at least 636 deaths due to the novel coronavirus while 30,000 people have been infected, most of them in China.

Meanwhile, a total of 441 people who came in contact with the first two cases of novel coronavirus in the Philippines are now being contacted by the DOH. Some of them have been included in the list of PUIs. Another 106 people are being contacted in relation to the third case of novel coronavirus, a woman who visited Cebu and Bohol before being admitted in the hospital and testing positive for the disease.