ON orders of Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield yesterday started preparing to fetch virus patients undergoing self-quarantine in their homes and transfer them to government isolation facilities.
Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Lieutenant Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar maintained that fetching patients from their homes is "pro-poor and for the common good."
He issued the statement as Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año clarified that local health officials would lead house-to-house searches for confirmed COVID-19 cases who should be be in isolation facilities instead of undergoing home quarantine.
The official said police would only assist local government officials and health personnel in the search which will start in areas where there is an outbreak or surge of
COVID-19 cases and those that are under localized lockdown.
Eleazar said they will be coming up soon with a guideline on fetching the patients from their homes and transferring them to government facilities. He explained that the
move is aimed at defining the role of the local police force and other local government agencies in the implementation of the Oplan Kalinga of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, especially for the poor who were infected by the coronavirus.
The official said that based on the initial rules set by the NTF Against COVID-19, it is the health workers who will identify the houses and explain to the COVID-19 patients and their family about the Oplan Kalinga.
“It is not the policemen who will do the explaining and the police will not even be the one who would knock on the doors of the houses of COVID-19 patients. Our personnel would just be on standby unless they are invited inside the house or their presence is needed inside,” he explained.
Eleazar said that policemen who will be tapped to assist the local health workers will also be provided with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.
He added that they will also identify vehicles that will be used in the transfer and would tap other agencies like the Bureau of Fire Protection which has the capability to handle the transportation of COVID-19 patients.
Eleazar explained that the implementation of Oplan Kalinga is aimed at containing the transmission of the virus within the family and eventually within the community by bringing all the confirmed COVID-19 patients even with mild symptoms and those who are classified as asymptomatic to proper isolation facilities.
Oplan Kalinga, he said, is also for the protection of the COVID-19 patients and their family from discrimination and other forms of harassment from their neighbors who see them as threat to community health.
“This is not anti-poor as some people would say. This is in fact pro-poor because we would be prioritizing COVID-19 patients who have no means to isolate themselves inside their houses because of the reality that they do not have a room to spare for self-quarantine. This is pro-poor because poor COVID patients will be given the opportunity to stay in ideal isolation facilities where all their basic needs will be provided by the government,” he said.
Based on the initial rules set by the NTF Against COVID-19 for its Oplan Kalinga program, there are three criteria for allowing self-quarantine.
First, there should be a room that could be used for self-quarantine; second, the room should have a comfort room inside; and third, there should be no member of the family inside the house who are considered as vulnerable to infection like senior citizens or those with pre-existing medical condition.
He said that the LGUs, through their health workers, should also take the lead in assessing if the designated isolation room inside the house is ideal for self-quarantine.