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DOH backs ban on home quarantine to prevent community transmission

The Department of Health has backed the National Task Force’s proposal for prohibition on home quarantine for COVID-19 patients and their close contacts to prevent community transmission.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the announcement a day after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that the government is eyeing a ban on home quarantine and that such measure will be enforced within a week.

“Based on observations of the National Task Force, marami ang naka-home quarantine at preferred ito ng mga tao, at nagkakaroon ng community transmission. Kaya ayon po sa proposal ng National Task Force, mas preferred na po ng gobyerno na iyong mga symptomatic at mga close contact [ng COVID-19 patients] ay ma-isolate sa TTMF instead of home quarantine," Vergeire said in an online briefing.

The health official said as of September 5, which is the latest available data , 84.9% of 1,742 clusters of COVID-19 cases in the country are due to community transmission.

Meanwhile, as of September 6, at least 41% of the 167,000 beds in state-run quarantine facilities are occupied.

The highest occupancy rate at 59% is recorded in Metro Manila where the bulk of COVID-19 cases are, followed by Region 5 at 56%, and Region 2 at 51%.

The Cordillera Administrative Region, Region 3, and Region 4, on the other hand, did not meet the minimum standard of having one bed in a quarantine facility per 2,500 of the population.

In a separate press briefing, Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the government's response against COVID-19 pandemic, blamed home quarantine for fast transmission of the virus.

"Maraming ospital ang tumatawag sa akin, family 'yung ano, may isang namatay na tatay, 'yung anak nandoon sa ICU, 'yung isa ulit mayroong symptoms. Ibig sabihin sa bahay talaga 'yung hawahan," Galvez said.

Testing czar Vince Dizon said the national government would release "clear" guidelines on home quarantine soon.

"Maglalabas ng very clear guidelines ang IATF sa mga susunod na araw initiate na po ng NTF 'yan. Hintayin na lang po natin sa mga susunod na araw, lalabas po 'yan," Dizon said, referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the government's policy-making body in addressing the pandemic.

Meanwhile, at the same online briefing, Vergeire also reported that the country’s contract tracing efforts have improved.

“From a ratio of three close contacts per one COVID-19 patient being traced, the ratio is now 1:4 to 1:10. That is a significant improvement,” Vergeire said.

“But even if we are seeing good indicators, we should not be complacent,”  she added.

Vergeire then said that such contact tracing initiative is still expected to get better because laboratories will not be allowed to submit their data if they do not include address and contact numbers of those who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Hindi sila makaka-upload sa system natin kung hindi kumpleto ang detalye na sinasubmit nila,” Vergeire said.

In an interview on Unang Hirit, Año said 50,000 more contact tracers will be hired in the coming days in addition to the 238,000 that were already recruited. The additional contact tracers to be hired can be deployed in areas where workforce for contacting is really needed.

He said 20,000 contact tracers will be deployed to Luzon; 15,000 to the Visayas; and another 15,000 to Mindanao.

The Philippines has recorded 241,987 COVID-19 cases thus far. Of this number, 185,178 recovered while 3,916 died.

The number of active cases is at 52,893.  —with Anna Felicia Bajo/AOL/KBK, GMA News