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“DOH should always be transparent about coronavirus cases” – SHARP EDGES by JAKE J. MADERAZO

By Jake Maderazo March 12, 2020 - 06:16 AM

With confirmation from the Department of Health (DOH) about local transmission cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Metro Manila, we are moving closer to code red sublevel 2, which will mean community-level quarantine (lockdown) and possibly suspension of work or school. As of this writing, we are still on sublevel 1 where there is enhanced surveillance, intensified contact tracing and home quarantine for close contacts of confirmed cases. Metro Manila mayors are activating their respective COVID-19 task forces to stop the spread of the virus.

The President has declared a state of public health emergency and this means the DOH can now impose mandatory quarantine on all suspected COVID-19 cases, including business establishments, with the help of the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies. It can also implement travel restrictions and a price freeze on basic commodities.

So far, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, other health officials and the interagency task forces have been very transparent in giving to the public the realities about the COVID-19 situation. Their identification of private hospitals where the confirmed cases sought treatment has helped toward this. And so far, people are listening and remain calm. Perhaps the mobilization of barangay task forces around Metro Manila will enhance the government’s efforts to contain the virus.

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The specter of quarantined buildings in Metro Manila is closer to becoming a reality with the intense contact tracing being conducted by the DOH.

A residential condominium building in Quezon City was visited on March 7 by the DOH’s COVID-19 inspection teams after coordinating with barangay officials and the building administrators.

The person under investigation was brought out and taken to a government hospital for assessment and testing.

Afterward, the condominium was disinfected and stricter precautionary measures were implemented for tenants like the taking of body temperature and the distribution of surgical masks. Health declaration forms were also issued to new tenants or guests before they could use the building elevators.Compare this to what’s happening in Hong Kong, where in numerous residential buildings in populated Yuen Long Town center and Tin Shui Wai, occupants were quarantined for 14 days by health authorities.

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World Health Organization (WHO) representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe has raised very important points we must always remember to prevent COVID-19. He says there is still no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through air. It is limited to droplets and close contact and this is why WHO is advocating hand-washing and cough etiquette. Do not go to work or school if you have respiratory symptoms. Observe body hygiene and social distancing.

Abeyasinghe says 81 percent of all cases are mild, 14 percent have severe symptoms and about 5 percent end up critical. WHO believes that we can still control its spread and prevent it from becoming a global pandemic.

His advice: The Philippines needs a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in battling COVID-19.

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