- More than 300 quarantine facilities around PH, 95 more soon
- Free accommodation, food, Wi-Fi during 14-day isolation
- There’s a medical staff to monitor patients
Six months ago, people did not know about quarantine facilities.
Today, there are more than 300 quarantine facilities already constructed around the country by the national and local government units. By the end of September, there will be 95 more isolation facilities that will be completed, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the lead agency in building quarantine facilities.
Those facilities have a total capacity of around 13,000 beds.
With the support of the private sector, the initiative has converted sports and entertainment arenas, events halls, basketball courts, evacuation sites, school buildings, hotels, and even empty cargo containers and ships into quarantine facilities.
Private enterprises, among them the Yuchengco-led construction firm EEI Corporation, Villar Group of Companies, MVP Group, Filinvest Development Corporation, Razon Group, San Miguel Corporation, and Ayala Group worked with the government to build the mega quarantine facilities.
The move was made so that the hospitals will not be overwhelmed with patients and also to provide a place to isolate COVID-positive patients to stop transmission to family members and neighbors.
The word “quarantine,” though, seems to bring anxiety and fear so many of those who test COVID- positive insist on self-isolation at home. But for people who live in smaller spaces with many people, the quarantine facility is the best place to isolate and get better.
Recognizing this issue, the government agencies have devised ways not to magnify the anxiety of those who are housed at the quarantine center.
In big cities in the National Capital Region like Quezon City, Manila, Makati, and Valenzuela, a person who tests positive for COVID-19 but are classified as mild and asymptomatic, are fetched by the city’s vehicle from their houses and brought to a quarantine facility.
Upon arrival, the patient’s name and related information are recorded, he or she is given a welcome kit that contains alcohol, vitamins, toiletries, and snacks, and then assigned to a bed or cubicle.
Each quarantine facility has different ways of creating partitions or for putting distances between patients, all according to the standards set by the Health department. Some LGUs offer tents used during natural calamities so that family members can stay together.
Rest and recuperation
Their stay in the quarantine sites “are meant to isolate, recuperate, and rest,” Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said. “It’s just really waiting for the 14 days to end.”
Books and free Wifi access are also provided within the quarantine sites to keep the patients occupied while recuperating.
The 14-day stay at the quarantine facility is free, and comes with free meals provided by the local government units.
Healthcare workers monitor the patients in the facilities daily and are on standby 24 hours a day in case someone needs to be brought to the hospital.
“Knowing that there is an available medical group on standby, and the government is taking care of them eases their fear. Their anxieties are eased because they know that when they need medical assistance, anytime, someone can attend to them,” Gatchalian said.
The medical care and attention we provide the patients– to check and follow up on them that everything will be fine– is really important. The city government is taking care of them, particularly our health department, to address all needs and concerns while they are in our quarantine facilities,” Joseph Juico, the project manager of Quezon City’s community-based testing, said.
Dealing with anxiety
Mild and asymptomatic patients are urged not to let fear take over and to opt to stay in quarantine facilities rather than at home.
“We always appeal that if you love yourself and your family, stay in a quarantine facility. It’s just 14 days. That peace of mind knowing that you will not infect your family members is something that you should consider,” Gatchalian said.
“It’s easier said than done for them not to worry but these are considerations that we are really looking into because it’s very difficult — yung feeling na miske asymptomatic ka, you think na baka mag-develop ka ng symptoms (the fear of developing symptoms even your asymptomatic),” Juico said.
He added that they ease these worries of patients who test positive by ensuring them that medical care will be provided to them so that they stop hesitating on admitting themselves to the local quarantine sites.
“Nothing beats personal care from medical physicians because one of the issues is their anxiety. So from time to time, we check how they are because their psychological needs must be addressed, too,” Juico said.
Building the quarantine facilities
Sports arenas were among the first sites to be transformed into quarantine facilities because its spacious floor areas were appropriate to house hospital-like rooms for patients.
Divided into cubicles, the rooms have one hospital bed each following a standard set by the Department of Health to achieve the purpose of total isolation from other patients in the facility.
The Ninoy Aquino Stadium, which was among the first sports venues converted into a quarantine site, was designed like a hospital ward with partitions separating each patient.
That’s the same structure of the cubicles at the Alonte Sports Arena.
Mega tents and events halls
Venues for public gatherings and ceremonies were also transformed into a quarantine facility.
Following the same standard, the mega tents were modified to be a makeshift hospital similar to those built within the arenas. Some of the mega tents and venues converted into quarantine sites were those in Ciudad de Victoria, Filinvest, and Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
Each cubicle measures 3.05-square meters and this version of the room is duplicated 100 to 300 times to fit the capacity of every mega tent.
A mega quarantine, which is tagged as the biggest isolation hub in Calabarzon, is scheduled to open soon. It will have 650 beds, 97 of which will be for healthcare workers and 553 for positive, mild, and asymptomatic patients.
It’s no longer new to repurpose container vans into shelters but this time, the government thought of converting it into mobile quarantine facilities which can be stationed near hospitals.
High cube containers were transformed into mobile rooms that have their own toilet — an ideal set up for long-periods of quarantine.
Each 20-foot shipping container has four air-conditioned rooms. Unlike the makeshift facilities in the arenas and mega tents, the mobile quarantine facilities are also made available as temporary quarters for healthcare workers.
Recently, Pasay City and Navotas have started converting container vans into isolation facilities. Around 300 shipping containers are being built for isolation at the Mall of Asia Complex and Cultural Center of the Philippines while 30 containers are being turned into 120-bed isolation units at the Navotas Centennial Park.
The Department of Public Works and Highways said a total of 63 evacuation centers around the country used during typhoons and other calamities were utilized as quarantine facilities.
The latest evacuation center to be turned into a quarantine hub was the Carmona Evacuation Center in Barangay Lantic, Carmona, Cavite which has 151 bed cubicles including provision for laundry area, nursing station, and X-ray room.
The DPWH Task Force to Facilitate Augmentation of Local and National Healthcare Facilities was created to oversee the construction of quarantine facilities.
The task force has also a design and planning team tasked to ensure that every facility built or repurposed follows specific health standards to serve the purpose as a quarantine facility.
At present, the country has 19 mega quarantine facilities.
“We are working closely with local government units and national government agencies to ensure we provide enough and timely infrastructure support in our fight versus COVID-19,” Secretary Mark Villar said in a recent interview.
“These facilities are essential in decongesting hospitals and further preventing the nationwide spread of the virus, as we slowly open borders for the economy,” he added.