Health chief: Philippines ready to handle Covid-19 cases

MANILA. (From left) Department of Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles in a press conference Thursday, February 27, 2020. (Screenshot from RTVM video)

THE Department of Health (DOH) assured Thursday, February 27, that hospitals in the Philippines are ready to handle cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III made the assurance, noting the possibility that Filipinos who were repatriated from Japan may eventually test positive for the new virus.

The DOH and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that 445 overseas Filipinos from the Covid-19-hit M/V Diamond Princess cruise ship were repatriated late night of February 25.

The repatriates were transported in two batches. Among them are 440 crew members and five tourists.

They are currently quarantined in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, together with the 13 repatriation team members from the DOH (9) and DFA (4), bringing the total of persons under quarantine to 458, said Duque.

“As observed in other countries, there is still a possibility that our nationals may eventually test positive upon their return. We have prepared and equipped our hospitals and laboratory facilities, and allocated all necessary resources and PPEs should this happen,” he said in a press conference Thursday, February 27.

He also said that the DOH is continuously monitoring the situation and will update its 14-day prescribed quarantine procedure based on evidence and new developments.

“We have placed measures for the appropriate isolation and management of individuals who may eventually test positive for Covid-19 to contain transmission. We are ready to address any possible scenario. Our priority is always the welfare of our kababayans,” Duque added.

The DOH said earlier that the government only repatriated overseas Filipinos who tested negative for Covid-19 in Japan.

Duque reiterated Thursday that the repatriates underwent five levels of screening for fever and respiratory signs and symptoms: (1) prior to disembarking from the cruise ship, (2) before boarding the bus to Haneda airport, (3) during the flight, (4) upon landing at Clark Air Base, and (5) upon arrival at the quarantine facility.

He said all of the repatriates were asymptomatic throughout the flight and were transferred directly to the quarantine facility in New Clark City.

"All quarantined individuals will be assessed twice daily, once via telemedicine and another assessment through actual physical examination. They will be provided with food, hygiene kits, and appropriate health services," he said.

He added that an ambulance team is also on standby 24/7 to conduct hospital referrals, if needed.

"DOH hospitals in Central Luzon are prepared to cater to those who may manifest respiratory symptoms or fever," Duque said. (LMY/PR)


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