With the shift of the greater Metro Manila area from Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to Modified ECQ, the Department of Health (DOH), together with the rest of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF), shall continue its efforts to further address the high hospital occupancy rates in Metro Manila.

Over the next 2 weeks, the DOH and NTF will continue to monitor and work with the Local Government Units (LGUs) to reach specific targets in order to address the two main pressing issues: increasing cases and hospital occupancies.

Enhanced Contact Tracing with Active Case Finding to Reduce Duration of Infectiousness

With the sustained high count of cases, the DOH and NTF have committed to reduce the duration of infectiousness of cases through increased contact tracing efficiency and strengthened active case finding through testing at the community level, which can help reduce new infections.

In increasing contact tracing efficiency, Contact Tracing Czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Information and Communications Technology shall further support contact tracing efforts through supplementation of around 27,672 contact tracers in the NCR+ bubble, and by putting in place an automatic contact tracing system using text messaging (SMS). Pilot testing of the said initiative is scheduled this week beginning with Pasig City, and expected to be rolled out to other cities over the following days.

Meanwhile, despite the country’s testing output nearly doubling, with a 7-day moving average of 52,565 tests from April 4-10, and reaching a high of 63,839 tests conducted last April 8, the government through Testing Czar Sec. Vince Dizon, and the DOH shall further strengthen active case finding through testing by distributing rapid antigen test kits to LGUs to ensure quick detection of cases and enable immediate activation of appropriate response protocols. The distribution of test kits will be coupled with appropriate guidance on its use.

Expanded TTMF Capacities with LGU Triage Systems to Decongest Hospitals

In terms of decongesting hospitals, the government, through Treatment Czar USec. Leopoldo Vega and the One Hospital Command Center, continues to facilitate the expansion  of L1-L3 hospitals in the greater Metro Manila Area by further augmenting medical personnel who will be coming from the DOH, AFP, and PNP, among others. To date, a total of 136 healthcare workers (HCWs) from Visayas and Mindanao have been deployed by DOH to different facilities in Metro Manila.

Moreover, over the next week, the DOH and NTF shall activate new Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) as well as facilitate the expansion of hotels serving as isolation facilities—this equates to some additional 1,700+ beds that can cater to mild, asymptomatic, and recovering COVID-19 patients.

Currently, there are more than 6 TTMFs scheduled to be activated between April 12-16, namely Subic Manila Times College (300 beds), New Clark City (165 beds), Eva Macapagal (200 beds), Orion Bataan (100 beds), National Center for Mental Health (1,000 beds), and other LGU-managed isolation facilities constructed in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and other private groups. These are on top of the Oplan Kalinga’s addition of 280 beds for healthcare workers, additional 20 beds in National Kidney and Transplant Institute, additional 88 beds for the Modular Hospital at the Lung Center of the Philippines, and the additional 110-bed at the Quezon Institute that was just recently opened.

All in all, a total of 3, 436 beds were added to NCR Plus following the declaration of ECQ and MECQ. These consist of 164 ICU beds, 2,227 beds for moderate and severe, and 1,045 beds for mild and asymptomatic. 

Additionally, the DOH is working with LGUs to set up triaging facilities near major hospitals to ensure efficient referral and transfer of patients, while private sector partners have committed to help the government augment hospital capacities by expanding ICU capacities in select hospitals.

In parallel, as we expand capacities, the DOH, NTF, and LGUs are working to institute the NCR+ integrated COVD-19 system to facilitate efficient referral of mild cases to TTMFs, moderate cases to L1 and L2 hospitals, and severe/critical cases to L3 hospitals, thus effectively reducing the load on tertiary hospitals and ensuring rational use of resources.

Govt-Private Sector Collaboration to Strengthen MPHS Compliance and Boost Vaccination Efforts

On top of targeting the spread of infection and the health system capacity to respond to the increasing number of cases, the DOH and NTF are working with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the private sector to continuously monitor and enhance compliance to the Minimum Public Health Standards in industries and workplaces. The Civil Service Commission has likewise been tapped to monitor and ensure compliance in government offices.

Meanwhile, the IATF has reaffirmed the participation of the private sector in the National Vaccine Deployment Program in order to further augment the government’s vaccine rollout. The NTF is expected to issue operational guidelines containing the procedures in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for procuring entities, such as the LGU and the private sector, pursuant to the IRR of RA 11525. With the private sector’s participation in the vaccination program, and considering that the government will begin vaccinating priority group A4 (economic frontliners), coverage is expected to significantly expand, thereby affording protection to more Filipinos.

“The government is utilizing a whole-of-nation, whole-of-society approach wherein all sectors of society must come together and work hand-in-hand in order to address the many challenges brought about by this pandemic. Under this collaborative effort, the national government, in partnership with local government units and the private sector, is scaling up the nation’s Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treatment-Recovery (PDITR) Strategy by establishing more testing laboratories, swabbing centers, and TTMFs across the country, as well as by fast tracking the implementation of the national vaccine program wherein the inoculation of priority sectors AI, A2 and A3 are now being conducted simultaneously,” NTF Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez said.

“The next few weeks will be crucial—with the actions that we initiated when we went into ECQ, we aim to institutionalize sustainable and long-term response strategies which we expect will help ensure that we will no longer need to return to ECQ in the future. We have a big task ahead of us, but we are confident that with the help of our line agencies, our LGUs, and our private sector partners, we can successfully establish a sustainable pandemic response,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.