Considering the speed by which the number of positive cases is increasing, Senator Win Gatchalian urges the whole government to be involved and proactively seek out persons at risk of contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Gatchalian said it should start from the local government units (LGUs), emphasizing that if their constituents have symptoms of fever, cough and respiratory infections, they should assume their illness could be COVID-19 so that they can immediately take steps to protect others in the household and the community.
In the absence of World Health Organization (WHO)-validated testing kits, Gatchalian said LGUs should be ready to access the nearest testing facility.
To date, only the RITM is accredited by the WHO to test samples for COVID-19. The DOH said, however, that five more hospitals are already being capacitated to test samples for COVID-2019: San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, Baguio General Hospital in Baguio City, and Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.
“Sa bilis ng pag-akyat ng mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, dapat mas paigtingin na ng mga lokal na pamahalaan ang mga hakbang nila upang matukoy kung sino ang mga nanganganib na mag-positibo sa sakit na ito, at mabigyan sila ng angkop na tulong medikal. Sa ganitong mga krisis, mahalaga ang pangunguna ng mga lokal na pamahalaan dahil mas alam ng mga ito ang mga pangangailan ng kanilang mga nasasakupan,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian also called on the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to ensure LGUs’ strict compliance with Memorandum Circular 2020-018, which defines the tasks of governors, mayors, and “punong barangays” in response to the outbreak.
The said memorandum calls for the organization of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs), which should ideally be one per population of 5,000. Each BHERT should be composed of a barangay executive officer, a barangay tanod, and two barangay health workers, one of which should be a nurse or a midwife.
BHERTs are also assigned to visit the homes of persons who came from a COVID-19 affected country, after which they will impose a 14-day quarantine and observation period for the arriving resident. Those who displayed symptoms will be isolated until they can be transported to a DOH-designate referral center.
The Department of Health (DOH) has reported that the number of positive cases in the country has reached ten, including the first two recorded cases of local transmission.
The DOH has also declared Code Red sublevel 1, which calls for intensified steps such as contact tracing, home quarantine for the close contacts of COVID-19-positive patients, improved hospital preparedness, and activation of other laboratories outside the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Gatchalian stresses that the global outbreak needs all country leaders to mobilize plans, coordinate every part of government, not just the health department but others as well including security, transport, trade, and information, among others.
The lawmaker believes that the country will be able to contain the spread of the dreaded disease with a coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of government.