DOH says shorter quarantine for healthcare workers, public will not put them at risk

By GISELLE OMBAY, GMA News

Published January 11, 2022 8:46pm

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday allayed apprehension that the shortened quarantine period of five days for fully vaccinated healthcare workers would put them at risk, stressing the move was based on science and evidence.

In a virtual briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire backed the Inter-Agency Task Force’s (IATF) recent approval of a shortened isolation and quarantine period for fully vaccinated health workers infected with or exposed to COVID-19.

This was decided after hospitals raised concerns about being short staffed amid rising COVID-19 infections.

“Hinding hindi magpapatupad ang ating gobyerno ng isang polisiya na magpu-put sa risk ang ating mga pasyente at ang ating mga healthcare workers. Lahat ng pinapatupad natin ay base sa siyensiya at ebidensiya,” Vergeire said.

(The government will never implement a policy that would put patients and healthcare workers at risk. Everything we implement is based on science and evidence.)

She added that there are also other countries that have adopted these protocols because of contingencies and high transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

“Ito po ay ginagawa base sa risk assessment ng ating mga ospital kung kakayanin at kung ito ay mas magiging beneficial para sa ating healthcare system at ating mga pasyente,” she said.

(This was done based on the risk assessment of our hospitals if they could afford it and if it would be more beneficial for our healthcare system and our patients.)

Dr. Anna Ong-Lim backed Vergeire, saying that despite the shortened quarantine, healthcare workers are recommended to continue wearing face masks especially when facing patients to ensure that they would not transmit any residual of the virus, if there are any.

“On review ang nakikita natin ngayon is ‘yung characteristics nung virus that allow it to be more transmissible also come with features that allow for viral clearance to happen over a shorter period of time,” she said.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana also stressed that the protocols are not automatic and the hospitals still have discretion if they would abide by them.

“Again, it’s not an ideal situation that’s why they’re called contingency or crisis mode. As much as possible, we wouldn’t want to invoke that, but if critical na talaga na mas delikado na walang tao sa wards, this is the time that the hospital infection control can invoke this as a last resort,” he said.

The DOH on Tuesday said it will also propose to the IATF a shortened quarantine period of five days for individuals who will test positive for COVID-19 but are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, just like with the healthcare workers.

COVID-19 testing

Further, Vergeire noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recorded two suppliers or manufacturers that applied for a Certificate of Production Registration of the self-administered test kits in the country.

She noted that while there are approved rapid antigen test kits already in the country, using them needs guidance from healthcare workers as it could lead to “misuse and misinterpretation.”

“Meron pong technical na proseso para mag-kolekta ng specimens pag ginagamit natin ito sa bahay at kailangan maintindihan maigi ng ating mga kababayan so that they can get accurate results from these self-administered test kits,” she said.

(There is a technical process to collect specimens when we use them at home and our countrymen need to understand them well so that they can get accurate results from these self-administered test kits.)

Further, Salvana said that the country does not have to test the entire population everyday to determine the prevalence rate or how many tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, the government could conduct proper sampling to estimate the impact of the pandemic.

“It has becoming less and less and efficient to have to test every single sick person na alam naman natin na karamihan diyan basta bakunado, hindi sila mamamatay kasi nagmimistulang trangkaso na lang ‘yan,” Salvana said.

(We know as long as most of them are vaccinated, they will not die because it just looks like they’re down with flu.)

OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David said on Tuesday that since the COVID-19 positivity rate in the National Capital Region has hit above 50%, the country’s testing capacity could face challenges.

DOH earlier said that the government will not adopt mass testing as a strategy against COVID-19 as it is not rational and science-based.–LDF, GMA News

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