MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday said it will continue to actively assist health authorities in tracing and isolating coronavirus disease (Covid-19) asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms, as the government’s contact tracing capability reaches 96 percent.
“Although the government’s contact tracing capability for Covid-19 patients or carriers has improved to as much as 96 percent nationwide, we cannot be complacent with the 4 percent, variance because this can surge exponentially before we know it,” said PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, in a statement.
Gamboa said the isolation of all confirmed cases in quarantine facilities and the identification of all persons with whom the patients had come in close contact with remains an immediate concern.
He added that their information provided by the patient during testing and subsequent information of close contacts are crucial to “make the entire effort work”.
“This is part of another operational support that police can provide to the overall strategic response to the Covid-19 crisis. This is where the investigative skills of the police come in handy. But let me emphasize that this effort is largely within the public safety function of the police,” Gamboa said.
He said the certain restrictions stipulated in the Data Privacy Act also affect contact tracing capability.
“(Because of this) we are only 76 percent efficient in NCR (National Capital Region) and similarly lower than the national average in some areas,” he added.
Gamboa also lauded the help of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who was assigned to oversee the government’s tracing effort.
Under Magalong’s leadership, Baguio City was earlier recognized by the National Task Force Covid-19 as a model local government unit for managing to keep its Covid-19 cases low.
“I am confident that through this significant change in the country’s contact tracing system, we can further improve our capability and eventually win over Covid-19,” he added.
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año has directed one of its attached agencies, the Bureau of Fire Protection, to assist local health officials in the implementation of Oplan Kalinga, the program to move Covid-19 cases from their houses to Ligtas Covid-19 centers.
Año said that Republic Act No 11332 provides legal authority for quarantine and isolation purposes and penalizes non-cooperation of persons who have a notifiable disease or are affected by a health event of public concern and this is what Oplan Kalinga seeks to achieve.
He said that assigning the BFP in the movement of Covid-19 patients to isolation facilities is nothing new since they have been doing this since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The BFP is part of the Municipal/City Covid-19 Task Forces and in this capacity they have been assisting the City/Municipal Health Office transport Covid-19 patients since the start of the pandemic. In fact, they have so far transported 1,674 Covid-19 patients nationwide,” he said in a statement.
He said the BFP’s Emergency Medical Service and Special Rescue Units have the necessary health personnel and equipment in the transportation of Covid-19 patients and that the BFP will work closely with the Local Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (LESU) of the LGU which takes the lead in Oplan Kalinga.
He nonetheless clarified that a Covid-19 patient is allowed to do home quarantine if he has a separate room where the patient can be confined; if the patient has his own comfort room; and if he is not living with people who are vulnerable to Covid-19 such as senior citizen and immunocompromised individuals, among others.
He said that since the start of the pandemic, the BFP has mobilized 73.80% of the total BFP personnel or 20,947 officers out of the 29,383 total manpower to different tasks as part of DILG’s efforts to defeat Covid-19.
Some 1,207 BFP vehicles nationwide have been tasked for decontamination, water rationing, flushing at control points, patient transport and other ancillary services.
“We have deployed 98 BFP EMS ambulances, 35 Rescue/HazMat vehicles, 970 firetrucks and 114 BFP service vehicles for the DILG’s over-all Covid-19 response,” he said.
He also directed the BFP to intensify its contact tracing efforts as part of the local Contact Tracing and Monitoring Teams.
“The BFP’s contact tracing efforts have assisted in the tracing of the close contacts of some 18,871 patients,” he said.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that the BFP personnel are also currently manning the Filinvest Tent Megaquarantine Facility where BFP doctors, nurses, psychologists, and administrative personnel attend to the needs of some 139 admissions.
“The BFP also mans the Philippine Arena swabbing facility where 96 testing booths conduct swabbing and collect specimens for laboratory examination,” he said.
Malaya said that at present, the BFP has 78 active Covid-19 cases among its ranks but most of them have mild symptoms and are currently recuperating.
“They are all under isolation, under treatment and are under close health monitoring. Unfortunately, we have had two deaths due to Covid-19 from the ranks of the BFP.” said Malaya. (PNA)