By Genalyn Kabiling
The government will prioritize the testing of patients with suspected coronavirus before conducting tests on the larger population, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made clear on Friday.
Nograles clarified the coverage of the massive testing after announcing the government has accredited eight testing centers and hastened the conversion of several large buildings as quarantine centers.
The government earlier announced plans to start the massive testing of suspected cases on April 14 for identification, treatment, and care of those infected with the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Ang priority natin obvious are the PUIs and the PUMs so doon muna tayo mag-prioritize and the process is dito muna tayo mag-focus (Our priority obviously is the PUIs and PUMs. We will prioritize them. We will focus on them) before we go even further than that,” Nograles said during the virtual press conference Friday when asked about the mass testing of Filipinos.
“We are trying to bring to isolate and quarantine facilities the PUIs and PUMs. COVID-19 doon sa ospital. And yung PUIs and PUMs habang nandun sila while naghihintay ng test results (The COVID-19 patients are located in the hospitals. The PUIs and PUMs will stay at the facility while waiting for their test results),” he added.
If a person tests positive for the coronavirus, he said, they intend to bring the patient to the designated medical facilities that can accommodate mild, moderate and critical cases.
So far, Nograles said the eight facilities can now process the tests for the new coronavirus disease. The facilities are Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, San Lazaro Hospital, UP National Institutes of Health, Lung Center of the Philippines in NCR, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in Benguet, Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
“Ang pagdagdag po ng testing facilities natin ay makakatulong sa agarang pag-identify at isolate ng mga indibidwal na may COVID-19 (The additional testing facilities will help hasten the identification and isolation of persons with COVID-19),” he said.
The three large buildings, namely the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, Philippine International Convention Center and World Trade Center, will be converted into full-functional quarantine facilities by next week. These can accommodate a total of 1,950 individuals, Nograles said.
Other possible quarantine centers are Quezon Institute, ULTRA, Duty Free Philippines Parañaque, Amoranto stadium, Quezon Memorial Circle complex, and the Veterans Medical Center complex.
‘Truth will help us contain the virus’
As the government gears up for massive testing, Nograles has appealed to the public to tell the truth about their health status and travel history.
“We cannot overemphasize how important it is for our health professionals and workers to properly identify and treat not just those who have been infected, but potential carriers of the virus as well,” he said.
“Kaya po napakaimportante na magsabi ng totoo sa ating mga doktor at nars, lalo na pagdating sa travel history natin (So it is important to tell the truth to the doctors, nurses especially our travel history). We urge everyone to be completely truthful because many others could suffer if you are not,” he added.
In Olongapo, some doctors have been placed on quarantine because a driver, who lied about his travel history, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Nograles.
“Inuulit po namin: wala pong rason para ilihim ang mga bagay na ito (I repeat: There is no reason to hide these things). Sabi nila, “the truth will set you free.” In the case of this outbreak, the truth will help us contain the virus,” he said.
Wear face masks
To help slow down the spread of coronavirus outbreak, Nograles also urged the public to wear face masks when leaving their homes for essential trips.
He noted that the Inter-Agency task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has required all individuals in enhanced community quarantine areas to wear masks or alternatives when they go out of their home.
“Kung wala po kayong face mask, pwede po kayo gumamit ng panyo o tela para takpan ang inyong ilong at bibig (If you don’t have face masks, you can use handkerchief or a cloth to cover your nose and mouth),” he said.
“Mga kababayan, our frontliners need us––and we need each other––to overcome this crisis. Together, we can beat Covid-19,” he added.