All provinces and municipalities have been directed to identify government facilities that may be temporarily converted into their respective COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facilities for Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs).
The Catanduanes provincial government, however, has already jumped the gun on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular No. 2020-064 issued March 29, 2020 by Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
Under the circular, the identified government facilities shall be reported to the National Incident Comment of the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19, with the Task Group on Resource Management and Logistics to classify the facilities into those that can be utilized for the isolation of PUIs and those where positive COVID-19 cases with mild symptoms may be managed.
The directive also gave the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has been tasked to conduct site inspections and commence work on the identified facilities upon the NTF’s approval.
The special care facilities must be enclosed but well-ventilated structures, with walls, windows and doors, the circular states.
Unlike COVID-19 facilities in hospitals, negative pressure is not necessary in the rooms.
These can be empty houses or buildings, equipped with appropriate furniture and beds, with sufficient provisions for electricity and running water, kitchen, toilets and baths, the DILG stated.
The facility should be able to accommodate as many individuals as possible, without crowding, and every person must be kept isolated from the others within the building and may be approached only by health care workers donning the required PPEs.
There must be one person per bedroom, it said, otherwise, each bed must be two (2) meters or more away and separated by vinyl curtains that should be decontaminated at least once a day and air dried.
According to the circular, the special care facility and isolation units should be, as much as possible, be situated some distance away from populated areas, but easily accessible to health care workers and other health authorities who shall monitor the status of those who shall be placed in it.
It added that hotels, resorts and other similar establishments designed to cater to people can also be tapped and operated as special care facilities and the rooms converted into isolation units, it added.
Sec. Año stated that the LGUs may utilize appropriate funds, including the 20% Development Fund and the Quick Response Fund of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, consistent with the National State of Calamity.
In the island province, the provincial government has allocated P30 million for the establishment, operation and maintenance of three alternative quarantine centers in Virac, namely, the Catanduanes National High School (CNHS), Virac Pilot Elementary School (VPES) and Virac Central Elementary School (VCES), after the Department of Education (DepEd) Catanduanes Division Office approved its request.
The DPWH Catanduanes Engineering District has already began work assembling beds and privacy partitions for the isolation rooms at a recently completed three-storey school building at CNHS.
With the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) is using confiscated lumber in its yard to provide the needed cut lumber for the 81 beds that can be accommodated in the CNHS building.
On the other hand, a building at the Catanduanes State University is also being readied to accept PUMs, which reports claim are the 31 stranded workers now being quarantined at Tabaco National High School after being refused entry by the task force earlier.
Likewise, accommodations at alternative quarantine areas are being prepared for a group of stranded Overseas Filipino Workers from Metro Manila.