DOH admits mandatory facility-based isolation may cause people to lie, but insists on benefits

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2020 02:05 PM | Updated as of Sep 30 2020 07:20 PM

A view of the Solaire-Pagcor Mega Quarantine Center in Parañaque City on September 29, 2020. Considered as the biggest isolation center in Metro Manila, the facility has 525 bed-capacity and aims to cater to asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 cases from nearby provinces such as Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health on Wednesday said it does not discount the possibility of people lying about symptoms of or refusing to be tested for COVID-19 because of the government’s policy to send even mild and asymptomatic virus patients to facilities for isolation.

However, the agency said it can be remedied by properly explaining to Filipinos the benefits of staying in a temporary treatment and monitoring facility.

This after the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, composed of local medical societies, asked government to reconsider the policy.

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While home quarantine was previously an option for those who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, the Inter-Agency Task Force recently updated the policy.

Under Resolution No. 74, only those who have comorbidities or pre-existing medical conditions, and those who are considered part of the vulnerable population are allowed to opt for home quarantine, provided that they meet some requirements.

Those in areas with facilities without enough beds can also be allowed to undergo home quarantine.

“Hindi ako nagdi-disagree. That is a possibility,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said of the concerns raised by the various health groups, adding that experts already explained this possibility to the IATF.

“Pero kailangan lang ipaliwanag natin sa ating mga kababayan,” she added.

(I am not disagreeing with them. That is a possibility. But we just need to explain it to our citizens.)

“Unang una, hindi tayo dapat matakot. Hindi n'yo dapat itago yung inyong sintomas. Kapag tayo ay pumunta sa temporary treatment and monitoring facility, kailangan alalahanin natin, mas maalalagaan tayo doon,” the health official explained.

(First of all, we should not be afraid. You should not hide your symptoms. If you go to a temporary treatment and monitoring facility, you will be cared for there.)

“Mas mamo-monitor po kayo doon. Mas mape-prevent natin na mahawaan ang inyong mga kamag-anak, ang inyong pamilya kung kayo ay nandun lang sa bahay.”

(You will be better monitored there, and you can prevent infecting your relatives unlike when you are just at home.)

Vergeire pointed out that after 2 weeks of isolation, the patient can then go home and be with his or her family.

A view inside one of the tents of the Solaire-Pagcor Mega Quarantine Center in Parañaque City on September 29, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Vergeire reiterated that the policy was set after the National Task Force deemed that the previous home quarantine guideline was not effective.

Many allegedly underwent home quarantine despite not meeting the requirements, resulting in family members being infected with COVID-19.

She also said there are some with pre-existing medical conditions that may actually benefit from staying at a facility.

On Tuesday, the HPAAC and other groups explained the negative aspects of the stricter policy. One group mentioned receiving complaints about how some facilities do not provide enough food to patients.

The Philippines has recorded 309,303 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Tuesday, of which, 50,925 are active infections.

Total recoveries stood at 252,930, while the death toll is 5,448.

Of the active cases, 86.5 percent have mild symptoms, 8.8 percent are asymptomatic, 3.3 percent are in critical condition, and 1.4 percent are severely ill.

As of Monday, 59 percent of the country's 15,000 isolation beds are still available.

Based on the latest report of the COVID-19 National Task Force, there are 1,047 quarantine facilities (with 23,422 beds) across the country for confirmed COVID-19 patients, 3,275 (with 69,508 beds) for suspected or probable cases, and 3,661 (with 42,262 beds) for close contacts.

So far, only 6,413 have been accommodated in the facilities for confirmed cases, 12,736 in those allowed for suspected or probable cases, and 13,176 in those for close contacts.