PH can't test all Typhoon Rolly evacuees for COVID, but precautions in place — DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 02 2020 01:59 PM | Updated as of Nov 02 2020 02:30 PM

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MANILA — The Philippines will not be able to test all Typhoon Rolly evacuees, but there are other ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 in temporary shelters, the Department of Health said Monday.

“Isa yung pagte-test for evacuation sites. It is the ideal. Ideally, kung meron tayong ganung resources at masasagawa, we can do that,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing.

(Testing at evacuation sites is ideal. Ideally, if we have resources and we can implement it, we can do that.)

However, Vergeire said it is “not really recommended at this point.”

“So what we have recommended is for the symptoms screening and the assignment of safety officers in this kind of evacuation areas,” she said.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated as Typhoon Rolly (international name: GONI), the Philippines' 18th and the world's strongest so far this year, swept the country, particularly south of the main island Luzon, over the weekend.

The calamity struck even as the Philippines continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated from China late last year. As of Sunday, the country has 27,115 active coronavirus infections, accounting for 7 percent of the 383,113 cumulative total.

According to the latest government report, over 4.53 million individuals have been tested in the country for the infectious disease, and the country's accredited testing laboratories have increased to 140.

Vergeire explained that evacuees who show symptoms will be moved to another facility.

“So ang pinakaimportante na ipinapatupad natin ngayon (So the most important thing to implement right now) would be yung (the) safety officers to regularly monitor all of these people inside these evacuation area,” she said. “Para kung sinuman ang magkakaroon ng sintomas ay matatanggal agad, ang we can prevent transmission.”

(So whoever gets symptoms could be transferred and we can prevent transmission.)

Asked about modular tents placed near each other, Vergeire said it is okay as long as the tents are enclosed and the partitioners help curb transmission.

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However, she also advised evacuees to try and get fresh air since it is unhealthy to stay in a small, enclosed space for the whole day. 

Before Typhoon Rolly hit, the Department of Health said it transferred 324 patients and staff from temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs) at risk of being damaged.

The agency also prepositioned P31,201,887.31 worth of drugs, medicines, medical supplies, health kits, as well as personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 supplies in various Centers for Health Development.

Another P21,679,638.59 worth of supplies were also stocked in the DOH central office warehouse.

DOH’s Director Gloria Balboa said none of the TTMFs in NCR were damaged, but they have yet to hear from Region 5, which was badly hit by the typhoon.