MANILA - The chief implementer of the country's pandemic response strategy on Wednesday expressed alarm over data showing that more than 77 percent of COVID-19 positive individuals in Batangas are quarantined at home.
National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 policy chief implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. urged the province's officials to put them in isolation facilities, and cited studies saying patients staying at home increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
He recalled that in Cebu, home quarantine led to a spike in cases in the province.
“Napansin po namin na dito sa lalawigan ng Batangas, mayroon tayong 2,599 active cases as of Sept. 21. Mula po sa datos ng provincial government, nasa 77.1 percent po ang bilang na ito o 2,004 na pasyente ang naka-home quarantine. Ito ay isang issue na kailangan po natin pagtulungan lutasin,” Galvez said during the NTF's visit to Batangas.
“Medyo naalarma lang po ako. Alam niyo po noong nagpunta kami sa Cebu, iyon kaagad ang napansin namin. Nag-spike ang Cebu, natalo pa ang lahat ng city ng NCR dahil nakita namin, 1,900 ang naka-home quarantine,” he noted.
The Philippine government will “restrict home quarantine” of COVID patients, according to the official.
“‘Yung home quarantine sana po ay tuluyan nating maiwasan. Ito po ang discussion namin kahapon. Magkakaroon po ng directive na we will restrict ang home quarantine. Gagamitin na po natin ang mga hotels, ang mga resort, at saka ‘yung mga quarantine facility para po matingnan ang ating mga asymptomatic na ginagawa natin sa Manila,” Galvez said.
“Mawawalang bisa po ang aggressive testing natin at saka ‘yung aggressive contact tracing kung hindi natin completely i-isolate. Parang bale wala ‘pag home quarantine ang ginawa natin. Sayang ang ating ginastos sa testing, sayang ang ginastos sa tracing.
“We are advocating no home quarantine policy," he said.
Galvez recommended additional COVID-19 testing machines to be placed in the Batangas. Two COVID-19 testing facilities in the province are up for accreditation.
Batangas Provincial health officer Rosvilinda Ozaeta however said they would need more isolation facilities and health personnel to be able to strictly implement the no-home quarantine policy.
The province currently has 27 functional temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, with 507-bed capacity.
Ozaeta said an isolation facility in Ibaan with a shortage in health workers limited its capacity to just 75 patients, instead of the full capacity of up to 300.
“Kung tayo’y magdidiscourage, dapat mayroon tayong nakalaan na paglalagyan. Pero kung bawal ang home quarantine, tapos wala kang mapaglagyan, medyo mahirap,” she said.
Other challenges faced by Batangas in combatting COVID-19 are the inadequate number of contact tracers and limited testing capacity.
“Ang contact tracers po ng probinsya ng Batangas ay halos nasa 1,400 lang po. At ang recommended contact tracers po na kinakailangan dito po sa probinsya ng Batangas is 3,700,” said Batangas Provincial IATF Incident Commander Dr. Gerald Alday.
Ozaeta said the province has requested the Department of the Interior and Local Government assistance in hiring contact tracers.