MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday clarified that it will be local health workers who will lead in the search and transfer to government quarantine facilities of suspected or COVID-positive cases who cannot comply with the minimum requirements of home quarantine.
In a statement, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said police will only be there to assist local government officials and health workers in the search and transfer of virus-infected individuals under the program, called “Oplan Kalinga.”
“Again, I wish to emphasize that the PNP’s presence in the conduct of the said program is purely for support and assistance to the LGUs who are taking the lead in defeating COVID-19 in the communities,” Año said as he dismissed claims of militarization since the military will have no role in this effort.
The DILG Chief said that he doesn’t understand why some quarters are speculating about the program since Republic Act 11332 or “An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern,” specifies that collaboration with law enforcement is encouraged “to protect the people from public health threats.”
He said that Section 4 of the said law states that one of its objectives is expanding collaboration beyond traditional public health partners such as law enforcement entities.
“Itong ginagawa natin ay nasa batas. Sa pangangalaga ng kaligtasan at kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan ay maaaring makipag-partner ang local health authorities sa ating mga law enforcement,” he said.
He said that the local government unit, through its Local Epidemiological Surveillance Unit will be the one to visit the households with COVID-19 patients.
“Ang mangunguna dito ‘yung ating LGU at ang public health authority, pangungunahan ito ng city or local epidemiological surveillance unit kasi sila talaga ang mga expert dito. Pati’ yung resulta ng contact tracing, pati kung sino ‘yung tetesting, ililipat o ire-refer sa ospital,” he stressed.
He added that prior to going to residences, local officials already have the necessary list and identification of households with COVID-19 patients.
These patients will then be assessed if they can comply with the minimum requirements to be permitted to practice home quarantine.
The Inter-Agency Task Force earlier said that patients showing mild flu-like symptoms or asymptomatic are allowed to do home quarantine if he/she has a separate room where the patient can be confined; if the patient has his own comfort room; and if he/she is not living with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 such as senior citizen and immunocompromised individuals, among others.
If these protocols cannot be observed at home, then the patient must be brought to a local quarantine facility.
Año assured the public that no rights will be violated as police officers’ presence will be limited to assisting in transporting patients and ensuring that lockdowns are imposed.
“We are very systematic naman in our approach. Bago pa pumunta sa lugar ay kumpleto na sila ng listahan at ng pangalan. Ito naman ay mga naka-PPEs (personal protective equipment) ‘yung ating health officials and health workers dito. Trained din naman ‘yung pulis para pumasok,” he said.
The DILG Chief urged the public’s cooperation by reporting households with confirmed COVID-19 cases and are currently practicing home quarantine despite not having the appropriate facilities.
“Kailangan po nating ipaalam sa ating mga autoridad ang mga ganitong kaso para sila po ay mailagay sa tamang pasilidad at doon magpagaling. Ito naman po ay para rin sa kapakanan ng buong komunidad at nang hindi na dumami pa ang COVID-19 cases,” he said.
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