2Go ships ready as quarantine facility for homecoming OFWs

THE TWO passenger vessels of shipping and logistics provider 2Go Group, Inc. that will be used as quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now ready for use, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said. In a statement issued late Saturday, the DoTr said the two ships docked at the Port Area in Manila would be open by April 12. “We have seen the need to step up and help the health sector attend to the needs of our countrymen. As we are expecting more repatriates to return home, we came up with these quarantine ships to serve as their temporary accommodations while they are on forced 14-day quarantine,” DoTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said, noting that most hospitals in Metro Manila are already on full capacity. One of the ships can accommodate 800 individuals while the smaller vessel can serve 300. — Arjay L. Balinbin

EAMC receives more body bags

SENATOR Christopher Lawrence T. Go on Sunday confirmed providing assistance in acquiring “cadaver bags” for a government-owned hospital in Quezon City due to the rising number of deceased coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. “Nakatangap ako ng sulat kahapon. Ni-refer ko lang sa gusto tumulong… ginawan ng paraannabigyan ng (I received a letter yesterday. I referred it to those willing to help… we found a way to give) body bag(s),” Mr. Go told reporters through a phone message Sunday. The East Avenue Medical Center sought the supply from the senator in an April 11 letter, which was shared by journalist Arnold Clavio in a social media post. Mr. Go said the additional cadaver bags may be intended to ensure there is enough supply as the hospital continues to treat COVID-19 positive patients. The letter particularly asked for assistance to procure at least 50 cadaver bags due to the unexpected increase of deceased patients. The report came with allegations that there was an order for hospitals to stop reporting deaths related to COVID-19, which has so far infected over 4,000 and killed 247 people in the country. The Department of Health (DoH) has denied giving such instruction and committed to investigate the allegation. — Charmaine A. Tadalan


DoH-Western Visayas gearing up for COVID-19 mass testing

THE DEPARTMENT of Health-Center for Health Development Western Visayas (DOH-CHD 6) is preparing for mass testing in the region while the Iloilo City government is also set to offer free tests to qualified residents to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). DOH-CHD 6 Regional Director Marlyn W. Convocar said mass testing is particularly crucial for determining community transmissions. “To substantiate transmission, we should be guided by more testing… we will do this in the next few weeks,” she said in a press conference last week. Local transmission has so far been confirmed in the towns of Guimbal and Lambunao in Iloilo province, and the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod. “We will subject those who are qualified as a suspect case to COVID-19 testing whether they had exposure to a positive case or not,” Ms. Convocar said. In Iloilo City, Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said last week they are finalizing the purchase of test kits developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines while personnel are also getting ready. “Our medical technologists are preparing to go on mass testing starting Monday. They are identifying the persons to be tested,” he said in a statement Saturday. Ms. Convocar said “suspect cases” or those with progressive symptoms and at risk for contracting COVID-19 will undergo the test. Based on the new DoH reporting guidelines, a suspect case is a person with any of the following conditions: All severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) where no other etiology fully explains the illness; Influenza like illnesses (ILI) with no other etiology and a history of travel to or residence in an area with COVID-19 local transmission; with contact to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19; with fever, cough, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms aged 60 years and above, with comorbidity, assessed as having a high-risk pregnancy, and health workers.

Meanwhile, Ms. Convocar said that they are also preparing to have more accredited laboratories to handle the testing. The Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Iloilo City, currently the only accredited site in the region, can process 120 to 200 specimens a day, according to Ms. Convocar. “Before the mass testing will be rolled out in the region, the 11 subnational laboratories should first be capacitated to operate at most 500 specimens a day… We are reinforcing WVCM by providing more machines and medical technologists,” she said. She added that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has 300,000 test kits in preparation for the mass testing. “We will start with the surveillance on Monday, April 13. We will monitor barangays with clustering of ILI cases,” she said. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo


RESU tracking 10,000 persons with close contact to Davao derby attendees

THE DAVAO Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit is aiming to track down up to 10,000 people who are believed to have contact with those who attended a series of cockfighting events in Davao City, which has been determined as a source of local transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). “I realized the 1,937 recorded individuals (attendees) is not even one-third of the possible total number of people exposed because there were several contacts there and they are saying, although, this is yet to be verified, we need to look into about 9,000 to 10,000 individuals,” RESU Medical Officer Cleofe Tabada said in a live-streamed press briefing last week. “But efforts are being done and the tracing is going forward. We call on the local government units (LGUs) to help us out. The LGUs are actively involved but we need to widen our search and reach to find more people,” she said. As of April 8, the contact-tracing team has reached over 1,800 persons in Davao Region and 104 in other regions. — Maya M. Padillo