EXPLAINER. Covid-positive patients with no or mild symptoms must be confined in government isolation centers. Who can avoid the new rule and stay home.

CEBU. A barangay isolation center in Cebu City and logo of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. (Cebu City PIO/Wikimedia Commons)

NEW IATF ORDER. Under Resolution #74 of IATF-MEID or Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, dated Thursday, September 24, a new rule is laid down for people tested positive of Covid-19 but show mild or no symptoms.

For confirmed asymptomatic and mild Covid cases, facility-based isolation shall be required (with the word "required" written by IATF in bold font, to indicate importance and urgency).

By facility-based isolation is meant hospital, clinic, or the regional IATF's Ligtas-Covid centers, or the local government's isolation centers.

In sum, as a rule, the isolation must be in a place where the patient is really isolated, under conditions conducive to non-transmission and recovery.

No more stay-home isolation, is now the general policy.

CEBU CITY SITUATION. Authorities from Cebu City Hall, with the apparent approval of Department of Health and regional IATF, have been encouraging, if not forcing, people found positive of Covid but with mild or no symptoms to stay away from a hospital and instead have themselves confined in a barangay isolation center or at home.

That was actively done when the local hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid patients and the critical-care system for the pandemic was in near collapse, prompting the return of the city last June 15 to 30 to enhanced quarantine, with a clutch of former generals sent here to symbolize the toughness of the lockdown.

The City Hall push was to ease pressure on hospital services. Stay away, if the patients can, from hospitals; go to a BIC or shelter at home.

Under the September 24 order, a "facility-based isolation" is mandatory. Staying home by asymptomatic or mild-symptom patient is no longer allowed as a rule.

REASON FOR ORDER. IATF cited President Rodrigo Duterte's September 16 Proclamation #1021 (series of 2020), which extends indefinitely the state of calamity in the country caused by coronavirus. It also noted that as of September 24, there were 59,700 active Covid cases recorded in the Philippines.

The mandatory stay in a health facility, rather than at home, is another safeguard against transmission, which IATF's Technical Working Group recommended.

The basis for the national policy though may no longer be valid in Cebu City, or the rest of Cebu, which has for the last few weeks been under MGCQ or modified general quarantine, the phase before the total lifting of the lockdown.

Last September 8, City Mayor Edgardo Labella declared that the coronavirus's "curve" has been "flattened," with a recovery rate of 90 percent. On that same day, the mayor announced the closing of 49 of its 53 BICs or isolation centers.

EXCEPTIONS. IATF Resolution #74 provides that the following asymptomatic or mild-symptom Covid cases may undergo isolation and treatment in their homes:

[1] When the patient is vulnerable (senior citizens, minors, with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, persons with disability, etc.) and his/her home meets the government-specified conditions; or

[2] When the local regional IATF or the Covid-19 Ligtas Centers in the region are fully occupied and the LGU does not have enough isolation facilities.

The local health officer will check whether the patient falls under the "vulnerable" list and the home where he/she will be confined complies with the DOH-DILG administrative order standards. It is assumed that there's a protocol for certifying the conditions to justify the patient's stay at home instead of an isolation center, such as insufficient BICs.

WHAT IF. There may no longer be any reason for having more than the four BICs that Cebu City has kept operating starting last September 8. But should there be a new surge, reopening the isolation centers would no longer be as hard as setting them up for the first time.

The point of IATF's Resolution #74 is plainly to assure tighter safeguards when the situation calls for them.

Isolation at home is second only to facility-based isolation and is allowed as exception only if the home has adequate facilities for the purpose.

And IATF does not say what to do if the patient resists and refuses isolation outside his house.

As in most national task force policies, however, there's a lot of elbow room for local government officials, who are the implementors on the ground.


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