Gov’t adopts omnibus guidelines on COVID-19 response

Published November 6, 2020, 5:26 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The revised strategies of the Department of Health (DOH) in curbing the spread of the new coronavirus disease have been provisionally adopted by the government pandemic task force.

The health department earlier released its omnibus interim guidelines governing the COVID-19 testing, isolation and treatment, and reintegration strategies as part of the pandemic response.  Such blueprint has been continuously recalibrated to strengthen the government’s efforts to contain the outbreak.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) adopted the revised DOH guidelines for the time being during a meeting Thursday.

Under IATF Resolution No. 83, the DOH strategies will be guided by six general principles including strict observance of the minimum public health standards to prevent the further transmission of the coronavirus.  The health measures vigorously promoted by the government include wearing of masks, hand hygiene, and physical distancing across all settings.

The IATF said there must be rational clinical assessment based on symptoms and exposure to decide on testing and quarantine or isolation. Facility-based quarantine and isolation must also be observed if conditions will allow.

For close contacts of probable confirmed cases, the IATF said they must complete a 14-day quarantine to see if they get sick. For suspect, probable and confirmed cases, they must undergo 10-day isolation to facilitate treatment. 

On testing efforts, the IATF said the right test must be used for the right reason. The use and limitations of available testing technologies must also be taken into consideration.

In screening persons for coronavirus, the health department ruled that test availability, best time to use the test, turn-around-time of test results, and test specificity and sensitivity must be considered. 

The real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) tests are still recommended to confirm coronavirus infection.  Rapid antigen tests maybe used in community or hospital setting when the PCR capacity is insufficient, in the hospital setting where turnaround time is critical, or in the community during outbreak to swiftly detect cases.

Under the DOH guidelines, a patient should no longer undergo repeat testing as a discharge criteria. “Repeat testing should not be a prerequisite for the issuance of a clearance or certification to be issued by medical doctors,” the DOH said.

As of Nov. 6, the country has recorded 391,809 cases of coronavirus with 7,461 deaths and 349,974 recoveries.