IATF asked to reconsider facility-based isolation

Should Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms or asymptomatic isolate at home or in government quarantine facilities?

For Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC), as long as the patient has the capacity to isolate himself at home, he should be allowed to do so.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said that home quarantine is allowed provided that a person has his own room and comfort room. He will only allowed to leave his room  by either a local health official or his designated physician, following the guidelines set under Department Memorandum 2020-0090 as well as DOH requirements.

However, on September 24, 2020, the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) released Resolution 74, which contained a provision requiring facility-based isolation for asymptomatic and mild Covid-19 patients.

Option to home isolate

In the perspective of infectious disease experts like her, Dr. Ong said the IATF is right when it stated that the virus can spread easily if a person will not be isolated. She stressed though that the patient should be given the option to isolate himself so long as he has the capacity to isolate, “regardless of their status if they are asymptomatic or mild.”

She added that exceptions should apply in two cases—where the local government unit has insufficient capacity in terms of available isolation facilities, or if the patient has comorbidities or vulnerabilities and has sufficient capacity to home isolate.

In a statement, civil society groups said they agree with HPAAC who stated that mandatory facility-based isolation can lead to unintended behavior like patients denying their symptoms and refusing to be tested.

“Furthermore, requiring patients with the capacity to home isolate to be admitted in government facilities will strain government resources. And it will congest existing facilities, taking away available beds from those whose homes do not meet the conditions required for home isolation,” they added.

Cost effective approach

Given its limited resources, they added that the government should adopt a cost-effective approach by having the facility-based isolation serve the underprivileged with no capacity to home isolate. Funds should likewise be directed towards technological interventions to monitor those isolating at home.

Remy Cabello of Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Iisang Bayan and a member of Tondo’s Barangay Health Emergency Response Team, said they are thankful to the government for putting up Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities or TTMS. The isolation facilities are a big help to her and her neighbors who do not have enough space in their house.

“Our houses have become crowded because many of us lost our jobs and some of our children were unable to go back to school. Transmission is very likely,” she said.

While civil society groups supported the IATF decision to isolate asymptomatic or mild Covid-positive individuals, they are asking that the necessary financial and social support be extended to them.

“We express our concern over the current conditions and management of government facilities. Covid-19 patients have experienced issues in hygiene, waste management, gender-based violence and sanitation in isolation facilities. These issues have to be addressed,” they said.

They further also recommended that financial support to given to those who will temporarily lose their source of livelihood to follow isolation protocols; that the government provide care for minors whose parents have to undergo mandatory isolation; ensure that isolation facilities follow quality standards and have sufficient capacity and  strictly enforce the monitoring of Covid-19 patients in government facilities and those under home isolation.

“We hope that the government will consider our appeal and recommendations. We call on our fellow Filipinos to monitor these policies and abide by the health protocols needed to contain the spread of Covid-19. We commit to working with both the private and public sectors in the fight against the coronavirus,” read the statement signed by groups that included student groups, barangay health worker groups and community-based organizations.


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