MANILA — The expanded COVID-19 testing guidelines in the Philippines have been updated to include other frontliners who are also in contact with probable and confirmed coronavirus patients, such as barangay health workers, jail personnel and social workers, the country's health department said Thursday.
“Napirmahan na ng ating Kalihim ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan ang Department Memorandum No. 2020-0258, or Updated Interim Guidelines for Expanded Testing for COVID-19, na lalo pang pinalawig ang ating testing initiative para isama ang iba pang sub-groups na at-risk sa COVID-19,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a televised press briefing.
(The Secretary of the Department of Health has signed Department Memorandum No. 2020-0258, or Updated Interim Guidelines for Expanded Testing for COVID-19, that expands our testing initiative to include other sub-groups at risk for COVID-19.)
FRONTLINERS, VULNERABLE POPULATION
Vergeire said two subgroups are added to the first four subgroups covered by the expanded testing.
Subgroup E includes frontliners who help in the COVID-19 health response, such as those manning quarantine facilities, members of the barangay health emergency response team, personnel of the Bureau of Corrections and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and social workers.
Subgroup F includes vulnerable patients such as pregnant women, elderly, people with immunocompromised conditions (such as those living with HIV), those about to undergo high-risk operations, those living in confined spaces like persons deprived of liberty and institutionalized persons, and those who undergo dialysis, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
Those part of Subgroup F should get clearance and recommendation from their doctors for COVID-19 testing.
Vergeire said that like before, those who are eligible for testing are only those who had direct contact with probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases.
She said it is only right for frontliners to be tested since they are regularly in contact with suspect and confirmed COVID-19 patients.
The original expanded testing guidelines (Department Memorandum 2020-0151) released last March only included the following groups:
a. Subgroup A: Patients or healthcare workers with severe/critical symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact
b. Subgroup B: Patients or healthcare workers with mild symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact, and considered vulnerable
c. Subgroup C: Patients or healthcare workers with mild symptoms, relevant history of travel/contact
d. Subgroup D: Patients or healthcare workers with no symptoms but relevant history of travel/contact)
The DOH has said before that it will further expand its testing once it is has better capacity for it.
The accredited testing laboratories in the country already have combined maximum capacity of nearly 42,000 tests a day. But the highest number of actual tests conducted in a day is only 12,546, done last June 6.
Vergeire said the updated guidelines no longer require COVID-19 patients to undergo repeat testing in order to be released from the hospital.
“Hindi na po natin kailangan i-test ulit ang isang suspect, probable or confirmed case para ma-tag s'ya as recovered or para s'ya ay makauwi na galing sa ospital o kaya sa quarantine facility,” she said.
(We no longer need to once again test suspect, probable or confirmed cases to tag them as recovered or to allow them to return home from the hospital or a quarantine facility.)
She said patients only need medical assessment by their doctor, showing that they have not had any symptoms in the last 3 days and that they have completed their 14-day quarantine.