DOH includes jail personnel, social workers among priority groups for COVID-19 tests

Marje Pelayo

MANILA, Philippines —Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has signed the updated guidelines for the expansion of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing which now includes jail personnel, social workers, and other non-medical frontliners.

The Department of Health (DOH) clarified, however, that there are still qualifications to consider before the test which means, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, not all individuals who belong to the sub-groups will be administered with the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

“Kahit kasama ka sa subgroup ay kailangan mayroon ka pa ring close contact sa probable o kumpirmadong kaso ng COVID-19 bago ka sumailalim sa testing, [You must have close contact with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 to be tested, even if you belong to the subgroup], Vergeire said.

Two subgroups were added in the guidelines for priority COVID-19 tests. 

One is Sub Group E or aide workers who man government quarantine facilities such as:

  • members of the barangay health response teams;
  • jail personnels from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP);
  • personnel who man quarantine control points such as members of the military, police, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) among others;
  • personnel in One-Stop-Shop facilities that assist in ‘Balik-Manggagawa’ programs for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs);
  • personnel in swabbing centers;
  • social workers who are involved in the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) and relief goods.

Meanwhile, those who belong to Sub Group F includes the vulnerable population such as:

  • pregnant mothers;
  • elderly;
  • persons with pre-existing conditions and weak immune system like HIV positive patients;
  • persons undergoing high risk surgery;
  • persons deprived of liberty (PDLs);
  • dialysis patients and patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The DOH clarified that those who belong to Sub Group F needs to secure a clearance and recommendation from their respective doctors before they are subjected to COVID-19 testing. 

The Department also stressed that COVID-19 survivors need not take repeat testing based on the updated guidelines.

Instead, they need their doctor’s medical assessment report to prove that they have not shown any symptoms for three consecutive days within the 14-day quarantine period. 

“Whether ang pasyente ay naka-admit sa ospital or nasa quarantine facility, o iyong mga mild po na may COVID-19, kailangan lang po na iyong kaniyang sintomas ay nag-resolve na tatlong araw na o mahigit pa [Whether the patient is admitted in a hospital or a quarantine facility, or have mild case of COVID-19, he or she must be cleared for three days or more],” Vergeire said.

“Maaari na siyang i- discharge sa ospital o sa quarantine facility nang hindi na kailangang ite-test pa [He or she may be discharged from the hospital or the quarantine facility without a retest],” she added.

At present, the country has 54 licensed testing laboratories with an actual testing capacity of 12,000 tests per day. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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