DOH: Not all workers need testing
MANILA, Philippines — With thousands of workers expected to return to their jobs as quarantine rules are loosened next week, the Department of Health (DOH) reiterated on Wednesday that testing is not recommended for those who have not been exposed to anyone suspected or confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stressed that under the DOH’s revised guidelines on expanded testing, priority is given to the severely ill, as well as those who are symptomatic and belong to the vulnerable population, such as the elderly with preexisting ailments, or health workers.
“Once our system already has the capacity, we will include for testing those asymptomatic who were exposed to a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case. We do not recommend testing if there is no exposure to a patient with COVID-19,” Vergeire said in her virtual press briefing.
COVID-19 is the severe respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Earlier, Vergeire said that once the DOH had reached an average daily testing capacity of 10,000, tests could be done on asymptomatic cases.
The department had aimed to conduct an average 8,000 tests a day by April 30. But it failed to meet its goal as the current maximum capacity is 6,420.
Vergeire, however, said the DOH would be able to do around 9,000 tests daily once the newly accredited Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in Pampanga province starts its operation in the coming days.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier asked companies that before they resume operations, they should have their employees tested for SARS-CoV-2 to ensure that the new coronavirus would not spread in the workplace.
According to Vergeire, Lopez has clarified that testing is “not a requirement” for reopening, and that it is to be administered only to those who need it.
She added that the DOH was finalizing return-to-work guidelines for workers, as various industries would reopen either partially or fully after May 1.
As of Wednesday, the DOH recorded 254 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the national total to 8,212. There are now 1,023 patients who have recovered from the severe respiratory disease with the recovery of 48 more patients.
But the death toll increased to 558 as 28 more patients succumbed to the disease.
Ailing health-care workers
Health-care workers accounted for nearly 19 percent of the total confirmed cases as 1,552 medical front-liners have tested positive for the virus. Of this, 571 are nurses, 548 doctors and 97 nursing assistants.
While 232 health-care workers have recovered from COVID-19, 32 others have died, 24 of them doctors.
Given the increasing number of medical workers falling ill, the DOH launched an emergency hiring program to augment the workforce in hospitals and quarantines. So far, it has hired 318 health-care workers.
Vergeire asked the public to contact professionals should they need help with their mental health, especially since hundreds of thousands of jobs were affected by the lockdown, causing anxiety to workers.
The hotlines are: 0949-568-2910, 0966-351-4518, 0917-899-USAP (8727) and 7989-8727.
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