Health workers, not cops, to lead the transfer of COVID patients to quarantine facilities

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) clarified that it will be the local health workers who will lead “Oplan Kalinga” or the transfer of COVID confirmed patients from their homes to government quarantine facilities and that the police will only be there in a supporting role.

DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año vehemently dismissed claims of militarization since the military will have no role in this effort.

“And the police will just assist local health authorities, so I don’t understand why they think this way. That is pure speculation,” he added.

“Again, I wish to emphasize that the PNP’s presence in the conduct of the said program is purely for support and assistance to the LGUs who are taking the lead in the defeating COVID-19 in the communities,” Año said.

The DILG Chief said Republic Act 11332 or “An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern,” specifies that collaboration with law enforcement is encouraged “to protect the people from public health threats.”

He said that Section 4 of the said law states that one of its objectives is expanding collaboration beyond traditional public health partners such as law enforcement entities.

“Itong ginagawa natin ay nasa batas. Sa pangangalaga ng kaligtasan at kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan ay maaaring makipag-partner ang local health authorities sa ating mga law enforcement,” he explained.

He further said that police assistance in the transfer of COVID-19 patients from their households is not a unique exercise in the Philippines. He said Vietnam is also employing the same practice, which helped drastically in minimizing transmission in the country.

He said that the local government unit (LGU) through its Local Epidemiological Surveillance Unit would be the one to visit the households with COVID-19 patients.

“Ang mangunguna dito ‘yung ating LGU at ang public health authority, pangungunahan ito ng city or local epidemiological surveillance unit kasi sila talaga ang mga expert dito. Pati’ yung resulta ng contact tracing, pati kung sino ‘yung tetesting, ililipat o ire-refer sa ospital,” he explained.

Given that health experts will lead the transfer, Año said that households were already identified and that local health teams have the list of COVID-19 patients.

He said these patients would then be assessed if they can comply with the minimum requirements to be permitted to practice home quarantine.

He said that the public is assured that no rights will be violated as police officers’ presence will be limited to assisting in transporting patients and ensuring that lockdowns are imposed.

“We are very systematic naman in our approach. Bago pa pumunta sa lugar ay kumpleto na sila ng listahan at ng pangalan. Ito naman ay mga naka-PPEs (personal protective equipment) ‘yung ating health officials and health workers dito. Trained din naman ‘yung pulis para pumasok,” he said.

According to Año, a household is allowed to do home quarantine if it has a separate room where the patient can be confined; if the patient has his 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.

Meanwhile, the DILG Chief urged the public’s cooperation by reporting households with confirmed COVID-19 cases and are currently practicing home quarantine despite not having the appropriate facilities.

“Kailangan po nating ipaalam sa ating mga autoridad ang mga ganitong kaso para sila po ay mailagay sa tamang pasilidad at doon magpagaling. Ito naman po ay para rin sa kapakanan ng buong komunidad at nang hindi na dumami pa ang COVID-19 cases,” he said.