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Health officials, not cops, will lead house-to-house search for COVID-19 cases —Año


Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday clarified that local health officials would lead in going house to house to search for confirmed COVID-19 cases who should be transferred in isolation facilities instead of undergoing home quarantine.

In an interview on Unang Hirit, Año said policemen would only assist local government officials and health personnel in the search. 

"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," Año said.

"Ang ating kapulisan naman ay maga-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.

According to Año, visiting houses would only be done in areas where there is an outbreak or surge of COVID-19 cases and those that are under localized lockdowns.

He said prior to going to residences, local health officials already have the necessary list of individuals who need to be transferred to quarantine facilities.

"Bago pa pumunta sa lugar ay kumpleto na sila ng listahan at ng pangalan. Ito naman ay mga naka-PPEs (personal protective equipment) 'yung ating health officials and health workers dito... tine-train naman 'yung pulis para pumasok," he said.

Ambulances, not cop cars

In a separate radio interview, he said ambulances would be used in fetching mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients and not police cars.

"Gagamit tayo ng ambulansiya para diyan at pagpapaliwanagan naman natin 'yung pamilya kung bakit natin ginagawa... Kailangan ambulansiya kasi violation ng protocol kapag mobile atsaka 'yung pulis kasi hindi naman trained ang pulis diyan," Año said.

This measure has already started last Sunday and Monday in Navotas and Malabon. Año said in Navotas, the government is targeting to transfer at least 200 mild cases.

"Ang target natin dito mga 200 ang maililipat sa isolation facilities, siguro sa Philippine Arena natin ilalagay," he said.

Accordance with law

At the same time, Año said the measure in which local health officials and cops would go house-to-house to search for mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases is in accordance with law.

The DILG chief cited 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."

"Ito ay nasasa-ayon sa batas... Doon sa Section IV, Letter F, Paragraph 3 nakalagay diyan, 'to ensure that public health authorities have the statutory regulatory authority to ensure the following: mandatory reporting, epidemic investigation and quarantine and isolation..." he said.

Año also said those individuals who would not cooperate with authorities can be penalized under the said law.

Meanwhile,  Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar said the measure in which health officials and cops would visit houses to search for mild COVID-19 cases is not anti-poor.

In a radio interview, Eleazar said authorities want to prevent COVID-19 transmission among individuals whose residences are "ill-equipped" for home quarantine.

"Contrary sa iniisip ng iba na ito ay anti-poor, baligtad po. Para po ito sa mahihirap nating kababayan kasi alam naman natin na posibleng pag nagkaroon ng positive doon, dahil nga sa sitwasyon nila na ill-equipped for home quarantine, magkakahawa-hawa..." he said.

House-to-house

Año's statement on Tuesday that police officers would go house-to-house to search for mild COVID-19 cases has caused public apprehension, with some — among them Senator Risa Hontiveros — even comparing it to Oplan Tokhang, the police force's intensified anti-drug campaign that human rights advocates are linking to thousands of deaths of drug suspects.

"Parang tokhang pero pang-COVID. This may actually discourage more people from reporting their status. We need to improve home- and community-based healthcare," Hontiveros said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Imbes na pulis, mas kinakailangan ang mga doktor at health workers sa barangay at mga kabahayan. We need more and better barangay-based healthcare, not this."

The national government has said mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 patients should not be on home quarantine if they don't meet the three requirements of having their own room, own bathroom, and absence of vulnerable person in the house. —KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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