Strategy calls for more localized, granular response

The Department of Health (DoH) will shift to a more localized and granular response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic through the activation of the Coordinated Operations to Defeat the Epidemic (CODE) team.

[caption id="attachment_751310" align="aligncenter" width="650"] NOSE JOB  A medical frontliner takes a swab from the nose of a worker who availed of the free Covid-19 test offered by Navotas City to its residents on Aug. 5, 2020. Non-residents are also welcome to undergo the swab test, the city said. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN[/caption]

The new battle plan is one of the solutions presented to the group of medical societies that had called for a timeout to recalibrate the country’s Covid-19 response strategy amid the surging number of cases.

The country logged 3,462 new virus cases on Wednesday, raising the overall total to 115,980, with 47,587 of them active.

Health Undersecretary and spokesman Maria Rosario Vergeire said the CODE protocol, which was used in the department’s polio vaccination campaign, enables a health-driven approach to the pandemic through strong engagement between local and community leaders and health care professionals; needs-based augmentation of resources such as health workers; and a multi-agency, multi-stakeholder support.

“This provides stronger support to our local government units who need it the most... We need more efficient ways for localized lockdowns to work,” Vergeire said during a webinar on Wednesday.

“We will not wait for the patients to come to the system, we will find them,” she said.

The CODE team will assess high-risk communities, mobilize stakeholders for action planning, complement resources from the community, implement the plan and monitor the results.

The plan includes a behavioral campaign called “BIDA Solusyon sa Covid-19”; intensified contact tracing in the community; the transfer of probable, suspect and confirmed Covid-19 cases to isolation facilities; expanded testing strategies; and the One Hospital Command system for treating patients.

National Task Force Covid-19 Deputy Chief Implementer and Testing czar Secretary Vivencio Dizon said despite the country reaching 35,000 tests per day as of August 4, some regions such as Region 4A (Calabarzon) are not testing enough.

“We have to push this further, especially in areas with high prevalence of Covid-19, [and] especially in a lot of economic zones in Cavite and Batangas.” Dizon said.

Former Health secretary Manuel Dayrit said the country was riding out the Covid storm while fortifying its health system capacity.

As part of the Covid-19 response, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said police officers would be tapped as contact tracers.

Roque Jr. said the government was taking its cue from Baguio City, where local policemen were tapped as contact tracers.

“We need them as soon as possible but learning from the experience of Baguio, Mayor [Benjamin] Magalong did not have to recruit additional personnel. He’s actually using the PNP (Philippine National Police) for contact tracing, which is something that we will also implement here,” Roque said.

The DoH said it would need as many as 150,000 contact tracers.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite are under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until August 18 to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Roque said the Philippines was not the only country which has experienced spikes in Covid-19 cases.

Citing a report from Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review, which examined data from Johns Hopkins University, he said about 70 percent of the world has reported growing cases since the start of April.

Roque said the Health department was hiring more health workers to work in MECQ areas.

“Most of the nurses will be working in private hospitals and since it is the DoH employing them, whether temporarily or permanently, they will be enjoying the benefits of government health workers which is substantially more compared to what private hospitals are paying them,” Roque said.

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise, a Catholic bishop echoed the government’s appeal to the public to strictly observe health and safety protocols.

Bishop Roberto Gaa of Novaliches said the government needed all the support it could from the public in complying with the health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and physical distancing.

Gaa said the government’s efforts would go to naught unless the people “will do their part.”

WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL