MANILA (UPDATE) — As Typhoon Ambo (international name: Vongfong) made landfall Thursday in the Philippines, the country's health department reminded local officials to implement physical distancing measures inside evacuation centers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Pag nagkaroon tayo ng evacuation center, minimum health standards should still be implemented,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the Laging Handa briefing.
(When we have evacuation centers, minimum health standards should still be implemented.)
“So kailangan po makapagpatupad o makapagpagawa ng stratehiya kung saan magakakaroon ng pagkakahiwalay, kahit isang metro ang layo, ng bawat pamilya dyan sa evacuation centers,” she added.
(We must implement a strategy where families are one-meter apart from each other inside the evacuation centers.)
“Pag nakikita natin ang evacuation centers natin, most of the LGUs have their own tents which separates each family. Sana po, maipatupad natin yan ngayon para kahit papano ay meron ho tayo ng sinasabi nating minimum health standards to prevent further infection in these kinds of facilities,” she added.
(When we look at our evacuation centers, most of the local government units have their own tents, which allows each family to be separated. I hope that can be implemented so they could at least observe minimum health standards to prevent further infection in these kinds of facilities.)
In a written reply to queries sent later by media, Vergeire said other measures can also be implemented such as installation of makeshift plastic barriers inside evacuation centers, "similar to the arrangement found in our LIGTAS COVID facilities."
“PPE such as facemasks can also be provided,” she said.
Vergeire said evacuees should be reminded to observe frequent handwashing and cough etiquette.
“Lastly, it would be important to isolate at the earliest possible time any evacuees who may display COVID-19 symptoms to prevent its spread,” she said.
The typhoon is expected to force at least 400,000 people in Northern Samar to evacuate. The local government had said that unused isolation facilities will be used for the evacuees.
Besides the Samar provinces, Ambo is expected to cause heavy to intense rainfall over Masbate, Sorsogon, and Catanduanes.