By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
Philippines health officials confirmed that the previously-reported 5th case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the first case of local transmission in the country after verification with the Bureau of Immigration showed that the patient had no recent travel history. DOH also reported that the patient’s wife tested positive for COVID-19 after contact tracing activities were prompted. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to six (6).
The 6th confirmed case is a 59-year-old female who presented with cough and was admitted at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) on March 5. The patient is currently in stable condition.
“The DOH is currently exhausting all its efforts to identify others who may have come in contact with the confirmed cases to ensure that this localized transmission does not progress to community spread,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.
In light of the confirmation of localized transmission in the country and in anticipation of possible sustained community transmission, DOH has raised the COVID-19 Alert System to Code Red sublevel 1. DOH is quick to clarify that this is a preemptive call to ensure that national and local governments and public and private health care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.
With Code Red, the DOH has recommended to the Office of the President for the declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency which will facilitate mobilization of resources, ease processes, including procurement of critical logistics and supplies, and intensifying reporting.
At this stage of localized transmission, intensified contact tracing and home quarantine of close contacts of confirmed cases, improved hospital preparedness, enhanced Severe Acute Respiratory Illness surveillance, and activation of other laboratories outside of RITM to increase capacity to diagnose are now being implemented.
“This declaration is a signal to all concerned agencies, Local Government Units and health care providers to be ready to implement planned response measures. We are continuously reminding everyone to practice personal protective measures such as hand hygiene, social distancing, and proper cough etiquette. Avoid unnecessary travel and postpone mass gatherings, as well. It is our individual responsibility to protect ourselves and the people around us. Only through collective action in our communities will we be able to limit the spread of the virus,” the Health Chief reminded.
However, once there is sustained community transmission – or an increasing number of local cases whose links cannot be established – the strategy will be shifted from an intensive contact tracing to the implementation of community-level quarantine (or lockdown), and/or possibly, suspension of work or school. These will be implemented in municipal, city, or provincial scale as may be warranted. Augmentation of health staff from unaffected areas and uniformed personnel will also be facilitated.
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