Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar announced the opening of the biggest quarantine facility in Metro Manila at Bagong Nayong Pilipino, Parañaque City.
Villar said the Solaire-PAGCOR Mega Quarantine Center funded by the Razon Group was inaugurated Tuesday, Sept. 29, along with a newly-constructed access road completed by the DPWH.
The newly-opened quarantine center will encourage mild to asymptomatic patients from Metro Manila and other nearby provinces to isolate outside their homes.
With Metro Manila still recording the highest daily number of cases of COVID-19 patients, the DPWH Task Force continues to expand isolation capacity to address the dearth of facilities from over the past months.
DPWH is working on the implementation of a total 603 isolation or quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients nationwide with a total bed capacity of 21,609, as well as 75 off-site dormitories for medical workers with a capacity of 1,806 beds.
Antigen tests still being studied
The Department of Health (DOH) is still studying the use of antigen tests to further reopen the tourism industry that the COVID-19 pandemic had badly affected for nearly seven months.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in an interview of ANC, said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) leading the pandemic response gave the DOH two weeks to study the use of antigen screening in a pilot test in Baguio City, and weigh results against the World Health Organization's advice to refrain from using this test for border screening.
"We are trying to see if the government can use it as well so we can have this more efficient and faster turnaround," Vergeire said.
"We need to wait for this pilot use… so that when our experts provide their recommendations on the appropriate use of antigen, our results will be accurate. It's not going to give us false positives or false negatives," she added.
DOH sets 30% target for hospitals
The Department of Health (DOH) is planning to reduce the critical care utilization rate of hospitals at 30 percent or less, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday.
In an interview on ANC, Vergeire said the establishment of the One Hospital Command which refers patients in need to hospitals, the threshold set for public at private hospitals to allocate 30 percent and 20 percent of their resources for COVID-19 response, respectively, and emergency hiring of health care workers should help the government address this target.
“We need to bring down the critical care utilization to 30 percent or less. That is the goal. That is the objective,” Vergeire said.
“That is why we need to expand the COVID-19 units of hospitals, and we were able to open additional units so far,” Vergeire also said.
Based on DOH data, 59 percent of intensive care units in the National Capital Region—where most of the COVID-19 cases are—were occupied as of Sept. 27.
Yuletide perks for medical workers eyed
The government is now studying additional incentives for medical workers who will take care of COVID-19 patients this Christmas, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday.
"Maybe for this specific season, because of our situation, maybe the government can grant additional incentives," DOH spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ANC.
"But that has to be discussed and we still need to study that further, if the budget of the government is there. There are really no allocations for that," Vergeire added.
No Sputnik sighting yet
The manufacturer of Russian vaccine Sputnik V has not yet submitted an application for the conduct of its clinical trials in the Philippines, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday.
The manufacturer, Gamaleya, already finished Phase 1 and 2 of its clinical trials on Sputnik V in Russia.
“They have yet to apply. We are in close coordination with them. They have provided us with initial documents for evaluation of our vaccine panel experts, and we have asked for additional information for our vaccine panel experts to complete their evaluation,” Vergeire said in an interview on ANC.
Mother’s milk effects reviewed
The Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday it would review a new study by Chinese scientists that mother’s milk could prevent or treat COVID-19.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, a research team in China tested the effect of human breast milk on cells exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The milk was collected in 2017, well before the start of the pandemic, and the cell types tested varied from animal kidney cells to young human lung and gut cells, it said.
The results were the same: most living virus strains were killed by the milk.
The breast milk was “blocking viral attachment, entry and even post-entry viral replication,” the team led by Prof. Tong Yigang from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology wrote in two non-peer-reviewed papers posted on biorxiv.org on Friday.
"We will be reviewing this further," said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who said breast milk protects infants from certain diseases.