The Department of Health (DOH) acknowledged that although reimposing a two-week lockdown on Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces would not be adequate to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, it would help the government buy time to recalibrate and improve its response to the pandemic.
Health Under-Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stressed that Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal’s 14-day updated enhanced community quarantine would serve only as a breather for the country’s health system to reorganize, restrategize and improve efforts to curb the number of COVID-19 cases.
During the two-week lockdown, the health official committed that the DOH would better coordinate with local governments that are experiencing an increased number of cases to provide them with guidance, especially on the interventions they should do to implement successful lockdowns and to monitor, check and isolate cases.
The DOH will also introduce a case cluster reduction plan, which will include group events aimed at improving protective behavior, home-to-house symptom reviews as a way of identifying active cases, RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) monitoring for those with symptoms, and treatment for residents who need to be quarantined.
There are currently 887 infection clusters or areas with more than two cases reported in COVID-19. Many of such clusters, or 741, are clustered in towns. There are 57 clusters identified in hospitals, and 26 in prisons. The remaining 63 clusters are clustered at offices, housing, and transport.
Metro Manila made up 315 of the total clusters, of which 241 are located in counties. Also part of the DOH’s lockdown strategy is to create a rapid response team of trained medical workers who can help prevent overrunning of the health system in the metropolis. A “replacement squad” would consist of health staff who would be transported to the capital city.
It is worth noting, however, that the strategy of the department already included the deployment of health workers from areas with few recorded COVID-19 cases, as early as March. Under the guidelines of the DOH, when the COVID-19 alert level was raised to red sublevel 2 in March, uniformed staff, as well as medical staff from unaffected communities/regions, should be increased.
The DOH had an emergency recruiting plan introduced. Of the 9,365 slots open, 6,510 have so far been filled in. Health Subsecretary Leopoldo Vega reiterated the
DOH calls for hospital administrators to ramp up their COVID-19 capacity for better accommodation of cases.
Since completing the construction of additional facilities at the East Avenue Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Quezon Institute, and Lung Center in the Philippines, the Department of Public Works and Highways had agreed to supply more rooms and beds.
He added that the Tourism Department has collaborated with hotels to provide 2,000 rooms for mild and asymptomatic patients who can no longer be accommodated at temporary care and monitoring centers.
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