DOH ready in case COVID-19 becomes pandemic – Duque

By Analou De Vera

The Department of Health (DOH) expressed preparedness in dealing for the likelihood of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) of becoming a pandemic.

Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (Facebook) Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (Facebook/ MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“So far, the way it is, our preparedness, readiness are adequate,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The health chief, however, believes the pandemic scenario is still “far off.”

“Remember that the countries that have been affected by the COVID-19 are numbering about 37. How many countries are there in the world? You have 195 countries. I don't think that the threshold has been reached to say that a pandemic is nearly happening,” said Duque.

He added that the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that nine countries, including the Philippines, reported no new cases of COVID-19 for more than two weeks already. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country remains at three.

“While the DOH welcomes this positive development, we cannot be complacent,” he said.

“So far what we can say is, we have a decreasing of PUIs (persons under investigation) – only 30; an increasing number of negatives. Hopefully, that trend continues,” he added.

The health chief said that the DOH “have been preparing long before this anticipation manifested by the WHO of a possible pandemic.”

“We are doing this at different levels. At the level of incident planning and management, in case there will be local transmission, we know what to do, just like what happened in the SARS-CoV in Alcala, Pangasinan, where the whole place was quarantined,” said Duque.

Duque said they are also scaling up the preparedness of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) as part of their “laboratory capacity-building.”

“This is the reason why we've been increasing the number of our capability for capacity in case maraming tao magkaroon ng (there will be a lot of people infected with) COVID-19 – handa ang ating pagsusuri ng RITM (RITM is ready to conduct testing),” he said.

“We are also leveling up capacities for our levels 2 and 3 hospitals jointly between the LGUs (local government units) and the national retained DOH hospitals. We are actually given out the guidelines that will show the steps that will level up all the measures, including infection control and prevention,” he said.

Cruise ship repatriates

In a related development, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said seven individuals who were repatriated from the M/V Diamond Princess cruise ship have shown symptoms of respiratory illness.

Vergeire, in a radio interview Saturday, bared that one of them experienced “non-productive cough,” while the rest experienced a sore throat. The seven individuals were taken to a referral hospital for management.

Of the seven, four of them have already tested negative for the COVID-19. The four repatriates still remain at the referral hospital.

“Once na wala na po silang mga sintomas, ibabalik na po sila uli sa kanilang kwarto sa New Clark City ,” said Vergeire.

Vergeire said they are still awaiting the test results of the three other repatriates, whether or not they contracted the COVID-19.