THE house-to-house search for persons who are positive for the novel coronavirus but do not have symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) will be led by local health officials and not by the police.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año issued this clarification on Wednesday, July 15, 2020, a day after reports of the police conducting a house-to-house search sparked public concern.
Año had said that the police will conduct the house-to-house search to bring virus-positive individuals to quarantine centers and prevent further community transmission of Covid-19.
He clarified that the police will merely assist the health workers.
Visitations will be conducted in areas where there is an outbreak or surge in Covid-19 cases and those that are under localized lockdowns.
"Ang mangunguna dito 'yung ating LGU at ang public health authority, pangungunahan ito ng city or local epidemiological surveillance unit kasi sila talaga ang mga expert dito. Pati 'yung resulta ng contact tracing, pati kung sino 'yung tetesting, ililipat o ire-refer sa ospital," he said.
"Ang ating kapulisan naman ay mag-a-assist lang sa kanila para sigurado na ma-implement ang lockdown at sigurado din na maayos naman 'yung paglilipat ng ating mga positive patients," he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros had compared the house-to-house search to the widely criticized Oplan Tokhang, which had resulted in the killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects.
She said such a scheme may discourage more people from reporting their infection out of fear.
Hontiveros said the government should instead improve its home and community-based healthcare to avoid community transmission.
Año said the implementers of the house-to-house search will bring those under home quarantine to an isolation facility if they don’t have their own room and bathroom in their house and if they are living along with elderly, children, pregnant women and other immunocompromised persons.
“We have observed kasi not only here in Metro Manila but also in Cebu na karamihan ay naka-home quarantine. Eh ito ang pinagmumulan ng community transmission kasi hindi naman talaga totoo na na-i-implement properly ‘yung home quarantine kasi may tatlong katanungan tayo diyan,” he said.
“Number 1 yun bang bahay may sariling kuwarto para sa positive patients. Pangalawa meron ba talaga siyang CR na siya lang gagamit. Pangatlo may kasama ba siyang elders, seniors, comorbidity or vulnerable person,” he said.
He said the health workers will be clad in full personal protective equipment to ensure their safety and they will be given the list of Covid-19 patients under home quarantine in their area of responsibility.
Año also reiterated that ambulances, not police cars, will be used to pick up asymptomatic patients.
“Ito naman ating mga isolation facilities ay magaganda, para kang nag 14 days all-expenses paid vacation kasi may pagkain ka, may wifi pa nga. After 14 days mabilis lang naman yan ay ga-graduate ka na,” he said.
The secretary said the house-to-house search is anchored on Republic Act 11332 or "An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern."
He said those who will not abide or cooperate with the authorities may be charged or arrested.
Section 9 of RA 11332 provides a penalty of one to six months imprisonment or P20,000 to P50,000 fine.
Visitations were conducted in Navotas and Malabon cities on Sunday and Monday. Both are under lockdown.
He said there were at least 200 asymptomatic patients in Navotas who will be brought to the quarantine facility at the Philippine Arena. (SunStar Philippines)