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Ready for the worst: AFP to house patients in camps, decommissioned ships if COVID-19 cases surge

/ 07:34 PM March 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine military is gearing up for a larger battle with COVID-19 which might require converting some of its camp facilities and decommissioned ships as quarantine sites if the number of cases surged.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay said the drug rehab center at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija is being readied as a quarantine area for suspected COVID-19 patients “in case this gets worse.”

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He said if containment facilities would be needed to house, treat and monitor large numbers of patients, “we are ready as Army.”

In Luzon, which is on enhanced quarantine measures, the largest facility is Fort Magsaysay, said Gapay. He pointed to the drug rehab center with a 10,000-bed capacity.

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Isolation rooms with 24-hour duty medical teams have been also set up in Army hospitals, he said.

“It’s part of a contingency plan in case of a major outbreak wherein we need massive containment facilities,” Gapay said. “Our camps are ready,” he said.

Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said some of the camp facilities that had been temporarily shut could be used as quarantine sites, too, should there be an urgent need to ease the pressure on private and government hospitals.

He told INQUIRER.net that if more facilities were needed for persons under monitoring or persons under investigation, the military would first use “shore-based facilities” that are not being used.

“For example, we had the gyms closed, covered courts, and halls in observance of social distancing,” he said.

He said the Navy could also use decommissioned ships to house COVID-19 patients but only as a “last recourse.”

Bacordo said he is not keen on using “ready for sea” vessels as quarantine facilities because it might disrupt military operations, including patrol activities and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

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“The ready for sea vessels are the last priority” because in case of any other major disaster, like quakes, there would be no more ships available to respond, he said.

The Philippine Air Force, which has designated areas on all its bases for patients under monitoring among its personnel, is ready to open up its facilities to the public upon the government’s orders, said Air Force spokesperson Maj. Aris Galang.

At least five hospitals in Metro Manila have exceeded capacity to accept COVID-19 cases. Hundreds of hospital staff all over the city are under quarantine as well, after being exposed to COVID-19 patients.

The Department of Health has earlier designated COVID-19 referral centers.

These are the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City and Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

As of Wednesday (March 25) the Philippines has 636 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 38 deaths and 26 recoveries.

Edited by TSB

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: #COVID19PH, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Coronavirus, coronavirus update, facilities, Military, Quarantine, ships
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