Isolation is a critical step in mitigating the transmission of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said in a media forum today.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said that an individual needs to isolate or do self-quarantine even at the slightest suspicion or symptoms of COVID-19 to protect themselves and their loved ones. Further, it is a vital safety measure if they had close contact with suspects, probable, or confirmed cases.

“Whether you are tested or not, please isolate. If you have been in contact with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive, please isolate immediately. If you are unsure if you have been exposed to a person with the virus, again please isolate,” Usec Singh-Vergeire stressed.

This message further reinforces the campaign of the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE), which shifts government efforts to a more granular and setting-specific implementation of the National Action Plan of Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate. CODE’s primary objective is to cut disease transmission in identified barangays and communities. According to Singh-Vergeire, CODE has assisted 17 barangays in the National Capital Region and two (2) in Central Luzon. The DOH is now preparing to assist 30 more barangays in CALABARZON.

Ang laban sa COVID-19 ay wala sa mga ospital, isolation facilities, testing centers. Ito ay nagsisimula sa ating mga komunidad, barangay, at mga tahanan. With our communities taking a more proactive role in mitigating disease transmission, we are now starting to see members of our local communities heeding the call to serve and lead the fight against COVID at the barangay level,” the health undersecretary stressed.

Crucial to this granular approach are the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) tasked to lead their communities in becoming more proactive about containing COVID-19. BHERTS are composed of members of the local community, particularly the barangay executive officer, barangay tanods, barangay health workers, and community volunteers. They are trained to provide the community with health promotion and education, and ensure the implementation of minimum public health standards.

Included among BHERTs’ responsibilities are supporting contact tracing at the household level; daily monitoring of the close contacts under home quarantine; and providing the first-line response to patients in the community. BHERTs will also coordinate the referral of patients for quarantine and isolation.

Usec Singh-Vergeire also emphasized that the BHERTs will always be there to help the people in facing a crisis situation, “We want our fellow Filipinos to know that our BHERTs are our first-line responders in our respective communities. Let us take part in our community response. Let us be proactive and make the effort to know who exactly our BHERTs are so that we know who to listen to, and who to get help from if needed.”

She ended with a reminder, “Always be aware of your own condition. And should the need arise because of COVID-19 concerns—ISOLATE.