DOH Prepares For Local COVID-19 Transmission
As observed now in nine countries with cases of the new coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) local transmission may be inevitable. Due to this, the Department of Health is bracing themselves for the possibility of outbreaks in communities in the Philippines.
DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a press conference that the existing confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country are imported, but their preparations are underway in case the local spread of the virus happens at a community level.
Local transmission has been reported in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Domingo cited the local transmissions happening in other countries and noted that these developments are compelling reasons to prepare mitigation mechanisms.
208 out of the 408 persons under investigations (PUIs) have tested negative for the virus, 197 still awaiting confirmatory laboratory tests, and three Chinese nationals tested positive. 240 of these cases are Filipinos, ninety-eight are Chinese, eight are Americans, and 50 others are different nationalities.
DOH’s decision is also a response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call to all countries to be ready due to the recent local transmission of the virus in several countries, even those that are far from China.
Domingo assured the public that the country is ready to address the possibility of local transmission of COVID-19 in the sense that there is a hospital system. The DOH official said that patients who are experiencing severe manifestations of the virus will be admitted to hospitals.
“We have isolation rooms. Right now, these rooms are full because we admit even the
PUIs. If more people get sick, there will be changes in the indication for admission,” he said.
When it comes to diagnosing, Domingo said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) has four “sub-national reference centers that can do testing on possible cases of COVID-19.” These reference centers are the Southern Philippine Medical Center in Davao del Sur (Mindanao), Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City (Visayas), Baguio City General Hospital (northern Luzon) and the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
The RITM is also now accrediting private laboratories that have capabilities to do the testing. Domingo mentioned that many private hospitals are vying for accreditation, saying that they have PCR (polymerase chain reaction) capability and trained personnel to do the testing. Making sure that the tests that will come out from their labs will valid, is the only step that they need to take to grant the accreditation.
The DOH is currently waiting for a rapid testing kit validation from the WHO, this will help increase the testing capabilities of DOh in validating suspected coronavirus cases. Domingo also assured that their supplies for protective equipment (PPE) for their health workers will last for a month or two.
The DOH currently has a pending request in Congress for a supplemental budget of ₱2 billion pesos for the procurement of PPEs.
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