PH strictly monitors incoming travelers amid outbreak of ‘mysterious disease’ in China

Marje Pelayo   •   January 6, 2020   •   878

(FILE PHOTO) Ph-A thermal scanner monitors all arriving passengers inside Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, Wednesday 28 April 2004. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assured the Philippine public that measures were still in place to fight SARS following a new wave of infections in China, which has killed one person. | EPA/MIKE ALQUINTO

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) has ordered a strict monitoring of incoming travelers from China amid reports of an alleged ‘mysterious disease’ that is affecting residents in Central China.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III directed the Bureau of Quarantine to intensify the screening of all inbound travelers especially those showing signs of respiratory infection and fever.

Reports said an outbreak of a mysterious illness has already affected 59 individuals in Wuhan city in Hubei province.

The said disease, according to reports received by the DOH, is similar to a “viral pneumonia of unknown origin”.

“I urge the public, especially those with history of travel from China, to seek immediate medical consult if experiencing any flu-like symptoms” Duque said in a statement.

“Let us also embrace healthy lifestyles, practice proper hand hygiene, and observe cough etiquette to prevent transmission of respiratory infections,” he added.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched an investigation together with its counterparts in China to determine the cause or the origin of the disease.

According to WHO, the agency’s China Country Office revealed that of the 59 infected individuals, seven are severely ill.

All patients, who worked as dealers and vendors in Huanan Seafood market in Wuhan, are isolated and receiving treatment, according to WHO citing reports from health authorities in China.

The WHO said clinical signs and symptoms of the disease are mainly fever while several patients manifested difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions of both lungs.

The concerned market had been closed since January 1 for environmental sanitation and disinfection.

So far, based on initial investigation there is no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission and no health care worker infections have been reported, the WHO confirmed.

Duque: We successfully flattened the curve since April

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Philippines has successfully flattened the curve since April, according to the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The Health Secretary said the number of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases stabilized from 210 to 220 per day.

“So over time we have been able to stabilize the number of new cases being reported anywhere 210-220 per day. This is the clarification I would like to make,” he said.

Duque said the doubling time of cases and mortality also slowed down. He explained the doubling time went down from around two days to eight days.

“I mentioned that on basis of case doubling time that has actually become longer beyond 7 days, anywhere from 8-12 days. This is an improvement from the initial phase of the outbreak, where case doubling time is about 2.5 days,” according to Duque.

However, former special adviser to the COVID-19 National Task Force (NTF) Dr. Anthony Leachon said the DOH should review their data.

As of July 14, the DOH reported 634 new cases, increasing the total number of cases to 57,545. The Philippines also previously recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a day with 2,434 tallied last July 5.

“I don’t think we have flattened the curve based on our increase in cases, number of deaths, and full critical care capacity of NCR and Cebu hospitals,” he said in a tweet.

Senator Miguel Zubiri also slammed Duque for his remark and said daily cases increased to over a thousand and the Philippines is soon becoming number one is Southeast Asia in terms of COVID-19 cases.

“The only thing that is flat are the backs of all the poor patients in fully occupied COVID-19 wards all around Metro Manila fighting for their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a message, Duque said COVID-19 cases in April declined after implementing Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). He also added that COVID-19 cases increased due to the expanded COVID-19 testing. —AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH asks hospitals to increase bed capacity to accommodate more COVID-19 patients

Marje Pelayo   •   July 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is asking hospitals across the country to increase their bed capacity to accommodate more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

This is because most major hospitals in Metro Manila are already in the danger zone or nearing full capacity due to the surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Administrative Order No.2020-0016 states that hospitals must allot 30% bed capacity for COVID-19 cases; but currently, public hospitals are utilizing 20% bed capacity while 9% in private hospitals.

Commitment po ng mga private hospitals po na maglaan ng 20 percent ng kanilang total functional bed capacity for COVID. Nakiusap ako na kung pwedeng kung kailangan ay dagdagan pa ng 10 percent para maging 30 percent,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. 

[It is the commitment of private hospitals to allot 20 percent of their total functional bed capacity for COVID. I asked them, if possible, to increase their capacity by 10 percent to make it 30 percent.]

Samantala ang atin pong mga pampublikong mga hospital ay atin pong pinakiusap ay yung 30 percent naman nila na allocated for COVID ay kinakailangan up to 50 percent ng kanilang bed capacity,” he added.

[Meanwhile, our private hospitals were also asked to increase bed capacity from 30 percent and make it 50 percent for COVID patients.]

At present, four major hospitals in Metro Manila have declared full capacity and can no longer accept COVID-19 patients. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the Philippines’ problems with bed capacity for COVID-19 cases. 

WHO Active Country Rep. Dr. Rabindra Abesayinghe recommends that only the severe and critical cases who needed critical care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) be accepted to address the matter. 

“Other measures that need to be done and the government is practicing now is encouraging the management of mild cases or asymptomatic positives in so called isolation centers, rather than admitting them to hospitals,” he said. 

“Because mild or asymptomatic people don’t require the facilities available in a hospital to manage them,” he added. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Burial for COVID-19 victims allowed but should be done within 12 hours—DOH

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 13, 2020

Burial for victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is allowed but should be done within 12 hours, according to the guidelines implemented by the Department of Health (DOH).

“We are still following our Code on Sanitation dito sa ating bansa and ang Law for Notifiable Diseases. Nakalagay dito na ang isang pasyenteng mamamatay sa infectious disease, kailangan within 12 hours mailibing natin, (We are still following our Code on Sanitation and Law for Notifiable Disease in our country. It is stated that a patient who succumbed to an infectious disease should be buried within 12 hours),” according to the statement of DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The protocols for the burial of COVID-19 victims is based on the Department Circular No. 0067 released in February.

Vergeire also said the casket should be double sealed and should not be reopened once it is closed. She added that buried remains of patients infected with the novel coronavirus shall not be exhumed for whatever reason.

The DOH said they are aware of the increasing number of COVID-19 deaths and the long queues in crematoriums. There are also reports of dwindling supply of urns. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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