Coronavirus patients will not be treated as criminals as the government moves to transfer them from their houses to government isolation facilities to curb the transmission of the disease, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government will provide “free transportation” and “free board and lodging” for mild and asymptomatic cases while they go on isolation.
“I think we can still compel them but I don’t think it will be in the nature as if they are being treated as criminal,” he said over CNN Philippines Thursday.
“We’d like to think that these are matters that can be settled in the barangay. For the longest time, we’ve had a barangay justice system. I think the barangay has the necessarily means and experience to persuade these individuals to go,” he said.
Roque however admitted the authorities can forcibly bring an infected individual to the quarantine or isolation center in the interest of public health.
“Make no mistake about it, if the person is completely adamant and he is there infected and could be a spreader, then I think he can still be forcibly brought to an isolation center if need be. That’s the earliest foundation of police power in promoting public health,” he said.
He insisted that the quarantine or isolation of patients is crucial to the government’s success in fighting the pandemic. “I think the reason why we haven’t flattened the curve is so many of the asymptomatics and mild ones are staying at home without their own rooms, without their own bathrooms infecting the community as a result,” he said.
The Palace official has encouraged patients to use the quarantine centers, assuring them of “hotel experience.”
“We’re offering air-conditioned facilities with Wi-Fi and free board and lodging,” he said. “It’s actually a hotel experience, so why would you say no to a hotel experience,” he added.
The government has discouraged home quarantine to minimize the risk of spreading the disease to other family members. The Palace however clarified that there would be no house-to-house search for COVID-19 patients. According to Roque, they will have to be reported by the persons themselves, other members of the household, or their barangay officials.
Local health workers will lead the transfer of COVID patients from their homes to government quarantine facilities dubbed “Oplan Kalinga.” The police may provide support or assistance in the transport of patients and the implementation of lockdown in the affected area, Roque said.
In a televised press briefing Thursday, Roque acknowledged that the government should have implemented Oplan Kalinga earlier to curb the outbreak.
“Itong Oplan Kalinga, dapat po siguro sa mula’t mula ay pinatupad na natin na kung wala kang sariling kuwarto, wala kang sariling banyo sa kuwarto mo, kinakailangan magpunta ka na sa isolation center, pero ginagawa naman po natin ngayon iyan. (We should have done Oplan Kalinga from the start. If you don’t have your own room and toilet, you must go to an isolation center. We are now implementing this),” he said.