MANILA - A public health expert on Monday said isolation of COVID-19 patients and aggressive contact tracing are just some of the ways the government can arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus in communities.
Dr. Susan Mercado said local governments could implement alert levels that will inform residents of the level of threat posed by the virus.
"I've suggested this to our friends who make decisions. We need to have alert levels katulad ng ginagawa sa Tokyo. Kapag mataas po ang transmission, red alert po. Para bang bagyo," she told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(I've suggested this to our friends who make decisions. We need to have alert levels like in Tokyo where if there's a high level of transmission red alert is raised. Like what we do for storms.)
"Let the businesses decide if they wanna stay open or not. Ihiwalay natin 'yung economic sa epidemiology. Pag sinabi nating red alert kung gusto magsara ng negosyo, nasa sa kanya 'yun. Para sa tao, ibig sabihin wag kayong umalis kung di kinakailangan kasi baka matamaan kayo. This can be done locally."
(Let's separate the economy from epidemiology. If we say red alert, if businesses want to close let them. For the people it means don't go outside or you'll likely contract the disease.)
Mercado said the country needs to ramp up its contact tracing efforts by also tracking up to the third level those who were exposed to the virus patient, citing Vietnam which has reported zero reported COVID-19 deaths and some 300 cases.
"Ang solusyon lang po rito ay ganito, hindi ito ganito kasimple pero ito po ang pwedeng gawin. Lahat po ng testing natin naka-target sa contacts. Imbis na test tayo nang test, kung sino-sino ang tinetest natin," she said.
(The solution, though not simple, is to conduct targeted testing for contacts instead of testing just anybody.)
"Ang kailangan nating gawin yung second line of contacts... Targeted testing po tayo. Natakot po kasi tayo sa asymptomatics kaya lahat nagpapa-test. I’m sorry to say it but the rapid tests has made it even worse."
(We need to test even the second line of contacts. We became afraid of asymptomatics that's why everyone underwent coronavirus tests.)
She added that government must isolate virus patients in "depressed areas" to prevent community transmission instead of locking them down.
"Kailangan lumipat na 'yung stratehiya natin papunta dun sa paano natin ititigil ang community transmission sa mga lugar na mahihirap. Dahil pag ni-lockdown niyo po sila, lalo po sila lahat magkakasakit. Kailangan po silang ihiwalay," she said.
(Our strategy needs to switch to how we can stop community transition in poor areas because if we lock them down, they will more likely be infected. They need to be separated.)
"Ihiwalay ang may sakit sa walang sakit (Separate those who are sick from those who are not) and that really requires a massive effort in isolation, quarantine and make those isolation areas pleasant."
Mercado lauded the country's efforts in setting up more laboratories for coronavirus testing but said government must strive to be better in communicating to the public.
"Kung meron mang pagkukulang in this whole period, we could really improve on communicating to the public. Hindi po angkop na sinasabi lang natin kung ilan ang nagkakasakit," she said.
(If there's something we lack in this whole period, we could really improve on communicating to the public. It's not enough to report just the number of cases.)
"Ang daming naging overconfident sa rapid testing (Many became overconfident with rapid testing). We have to really be better at our communication. Educate the public with all the information because it’s changing so rapidly."
The Philippines as of Sunday reported 80,448 cases of COVID-19, with 26,110 recoveries and 1,932 deaths. It is second only to Indonesia in having the highest number of virus cases in Southeast Asia.