Palace teases ‘major changes’ in gov’t COVID-19 response
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will see “major changes” in the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response, Malacañang said Wednesday as the number of coronavirus infections nationwide continues to rise.
According to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, the changes refer to “massive, massive” testing, “reintegrated” contact tracing, and creation of “more and more” isolation facilities.
“Massive, massive targeted testing involving pooled testing that would multiply our testing (capacity) by at least ten (fold). And that would reduce the cost of PCR testing to as low as P300 per person,” Roque told CNN Philippines’ The Source when asked to elaborate on COVID-19 measures the government intends to impose.
Under the pooled testing method, swab samples of multiple individuals will be put into a single RT-PCR test. If a positive result came back, further individual assessments will be made to ascertain which specimen is infected with the coronavirus. Meanwhile, if the swab tests come back negative, then individual testing will no longer be needed.
To further beef up contact tracing efforts, Roque bared the government will create an “army of volunteers” to be trained by Training Czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.
“We would not rely on the individuals who are paid to become tracers, we’re going to build an army of volunteers courtesy of training materials to be provided by Mayor Magalong so that we can intensify tracing and hopefully do like what Vietnam and Thailand did of up to third-degree of tracing,” Roque said.
As for the quarantine efforts, the Palace official said Isolation Czar and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar “has committed to building more and more isolation facilities.”
A drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija will also be converted into a temporary treatment and quarantine site for COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, the government also intends to establish a referral network between hospitals in Metro Manila and neighboring regions in case COVID-19 beds in the metropolis hit the critical level.
“If hospital beds in Metro Manila are at critical levels, we will tap even the bed capacity of the neighboring Region III or Region IV-! to refer patients to these vacant isolation and ICU beds,” Roque said.
The Department of Health earlier warned that the country’s health system is “close to being overwhelmed,” as hospitals, particularly in Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) are running out of beds for COVID-19 patients.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases met on Tuesday to discuss the recommendations for the new quarantine measures to be imposed on August 1.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to announce the classifications on Thursday, Roque said.
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