MANILA – The National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 said the visit of Israeli health experts is very timely and crucial as the government ramped up its coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response efforts amid the threat of the Delta variant.
NTF Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the vaccination program has been improved after the first delegation of Israeli experts visited the country and assist the government in ensuring proper vaccine management last month.
“It was only a month ago when your government sent a delegation of vaccine and logistics experts here to observe our vaccine deployment and administration strategies and offer recommendations on how we can further improve them. We certainly learned a lot from them and have incorporated their suggestions into our current systems and approaches,” Galvez said in a written message read by his representative, Ret. Brig. Gen. Agustus De Villa, during the Philippines-Israel health experts’ discussions on the Covid-19 pandemic responses at the Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Tuesday.
Galvez said the second delegation of the Israeli experts has come in a “very crucial time” now that the country has detected local transmission of the more vicious Delta Covid-19 variant.
“While the national government is now focused on scaling up the implementation of our Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDTIR) strategy and impose stricter border control in all points of entry, we know that there are still much to be learned and much to be done,” he added.
The visiting Israeli team is scheduled to observe the Philippines’ Covid-19 mitigation efforts and inspect the country’s hospitalization capacity within this week.
“We hope that through this series of consultations and site visits to our health facilities, you will be able to provide us more insights on how we can better manage and control the spread of the delta variant,” Galvez said.
Delta variant threat
During the discussions, Chaim Markos Rafalowski, Disaster Management Coordinator of the Magen David Adom in Israel, shared how the Israeli Ministry of Health along with medical professionals is trying to halt the local transmission of the Delta variant.
“Some of the strategies we did to mitigate the Covid-19 is that we close our borders very early in Israel and we had an early detection of cases, particularly the Delta variant,” he said.
Rafalowski said the health experts involved in virus mitigation must consider the isolation of those at risk of exposure, including active cases and their close contacts, and increase capacity on epidemiological investigations.
On his part, Health Undersecretary Dr. Leopoldo Vega, head of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID)’s Response Cluster, said there are many similar practices being done by the Philippines and Israel when it comes to containing the pandemic.
Vega said both countries have the same prevention and treatment practices.
“Maraming similarities, practices ng Israel at saka sa atin lalo na sa prevention and isolation, yung kakaiba lang sa isolation nila kasi pwede silang mag-home quarantine pero kasi sa atin talaga dito mahirap ung home quarantine kasi marami ngang nae-expose na mga kapamilya so kailangan talaga na sa isolation facility lalo na itong sa Delta (We have many similarities with the Israeli practices, particularly in prevention and isolation but the policy on home quarantine only differs as they allowed it there, while here it’s really hard to impose home quarantine because many family members will be exposed so we really need to transfer the patient to the isolation facility,” Vega said in an interview.
Home quarantine vs. Covid-19
In the Philippine setting, Vega noted that in some houses, there is more than one family living together.
Rafalowski likewise emphasized that there are two important protocols that must be observed during a home quarantine period.
Aside from prohibiting the isolated individuals to go out into public places, Rafalowski said the quarantined persons must also avoid having direct contact with the family members until the isolation period is done and the person is cleared from the disease.
The Ministry of Health in Israel also offers 24/7 medical monitoring of the patients while the home isolation is ongoing.
An ambulance is on-standby and ready to transfer isolated persons once they feel severe symptoms of Covid-19.
Meantime, NTF medical adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa said the government may adopt Israel’s responses, particularly the home quarantine strategies if the Delta variant cases spike in the country and all quarantine facilities will be fully occupied.
“Pwedeng mag-home quarantine basta kaya na hindi makipaghalubilo sa ibang miyembro ng bahay para hindi tayo makahawa during home quarantine (Home quarantine may be allowed as long as you maintain social distancing with other family members in the household, so you can’t infect others while being home isolated),” Herbosa said in a separate interview.
Herbosa said the Philippines is preparing for all necessary steps to contain the Delta variant transmission locally including the expansion of the country’s Covid-19 One Hospital Command, contact tracing, creating more isolation facilities, and boosting treatment capacities.
Herbosa, however, said the people must not be complacent as the Delta variant is five times more infectious than the old strain.
The exchanges of health protocols discussions ended with the conclusion that everyone would be safe once everyone is vaccinated.
By Lade Jean Kabagani