By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Department of Health (DOH) announced the establishment of four mega swabbing centers in different parts of Metro Manila and Bulacan in order to help achieve early detection of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
During the Beat COVID-19 virtual press briefing held on Monday afternoon, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the country will not be able to defeat the pandemic unless it focuses on early detection.
“Hindi tayo magiging kampante, at lalo nang hindi tayo papayag na walang kahandaan na magiging sanhi pa ng isang mas malaking krisis sa kalusugan (We will not be complacent, and all the more we will not allow non-preparedness to be the reason for creating a bigger health crisis),” she said.
This is the reason why the DOH has tied up with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to create these mega swabbing centers located at the Philippine Arena Complex in Bulacan (northern sector), Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City (southern sector), Enderun Tent McKinley Hill in Taguig City (eastern sector), and Palacio Tent in Roxas Boulevard (western sector).
Vergerie said that these centers are estimated to conduct at least 5,000 tests a day, and they are scheduled to open anytime this week. These centers will help the Philippines achieve its goal of conducting 30,000 tests a day by May 31.
The DOH has hired more lab encoders in order to speed up the release of COVID-19 test results. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has likewise helped the country’s health workers by creating specimen collection booths. So far, 132 booths have been distributed to 80 health facilities.
DOH gives aid to correctional facilities
The DOH, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has also given attention to the plight of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have reported COVID-19-positive cases within their facilities, and lamented that their highly congested jails make their inmates and jail guards more prone to contracting the virus.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque ordered the creation of isolation facilities in New Bilibid Prison. Vergerie added that they also have a 48-bed capacity quarantine facility in the Quezon City Jail in Payatas, where 40 are currently admitted.
A 40-bed quarantine facility in the new San Fernando district jail and an 80-bed quarantine facility in the district jail in Pagbilao, Lucena City are also being prepared.
Not only is the DOH looking into containing the spread of the virus in jails, but it is also looking into other closed-setting facilities as well, such as orphanages and homes for the elderly with the help of WHO and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).