MANILA — With confirmed cases of local transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Philippines, the country's health department said Monday only those with severe symptoms need to be confined in hospitals.
“Para lang malinaw sa lahat. Ngayong nandito na tayo sa estado na ganitong meron na tayong nakikitang localized transmission, 'yun pong ating strategy for quarantine of persons is we are now transitioning to having home quarantine sa mga indibidwal, especially for those with mild cases para hindi napupuno ang ating hospital facilities,” said Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
(Just so it is clear with everyone, now that we are seeing localized transmission, our strategy for quarantine is we are now transitioning to having home quarantine for individuals, especially for those with mild cases so our hospital facilities won’t be full.)
Vergeire said the facility in New Clark City, Tarlac province, north of the capital Manila, that housed Filipino repatriates from China and Macau, will no longer be used that much.
“Because our strategy is being redirected to this early detection, isolation and management of cases,” she said.
The health department on Saturday announced a Code Red Sublevel 1 Alert after four new cases of COVID-19 in the coutnry were confirmed. The total tally rose to 20 on Monday.
Vergeire assured the public there are enough beds and isolation rooms in hospitals. “We’ve planned and prepared our hospitals, especially our government hospitals, for these isolation rooms, in case our surge capacity [is reached].”
“For now, it is enough. We’ll see in the coming days how we can address the need,” she added.
Asked if the DOH is considering a lockdown of areas where there are clusters of COVID-19 cases, Vergeire said it’s not yet time.
A lockdown refers to the closing down of a certain area, she explained, preventing people from moving in and out.
She said a lockdown would fall under Sublevel 2 of the Code Red alert.
“Right now we are still in Sublevel 1. We are not yet at the state that necessitates a lockdown,” she said.
Only a sustained community transmission will result in the raising of the Code Red to Sublevel 2, she added.
Based on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s presentation at Malacanang on Monday, Sublevel 1 is triggered by having one local transmission. Government response will involve intensified contact tracing, expanded surveillance, increased testing prioritizing vulnerable groups and strict enforcement of home quarantine.
Meanwhile, Sublevel 2 is triggered by sustained community transmission “beyond capacity.” Vergeire said it refers to a situation when cases are no longer linked to each other and are more widespread.
Response to Sublevel 2 includes lockdowns or community quarantines, adopting epidemiologic linkage, suspending work or school, and augmenting medical staff from unaffected communities.
The disease, which originated in China late last year, has spread to more than 100 countries, infecting over 110,000 people and killing nearly 4,000.