By Sydney Antoinette Alipao

PHOTO: Benar News

Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approved its sub-technical working group on data analytics' proposal of increasing testings, vaccinations, and hospital beds in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces: Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

According to Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles, the group recommended a raised RT-PCR testing capacity in NCR Plus by ensuring a seven days a week operation of laboratories.

The group also instructed to "fast-track applications for Licenses to Operate for new RT-PCR laboratories and promptly provide commodities for swabbing and testing" and to prioritize testings for those with comorbidities and the elderlies.

Moreover, the National Vaccination Operations Center was ordered to boost vaccination rates straightaway.

Bed capacities were also directed to be increased to address the hike of COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Included in the approved proposal are ensuring immediate and appropriate facility referral, increasing facilities to the areas in need, removing referral quotas in hospitals, and reassessing temporary treatment and monitoring facilities capacity.

Nograles mentioned that the IATF has ordered the National Task Force Health Facilities Sub-cluster and the Department of Health's Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service to "increase telehealth and telemedicine capacity outside Metro Manila."

Furthermore, ensured functional emergency operation centers and triage areas in all local government units are assigned to the Community Response Cluster and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“These shall oversee patient navigation so that only those needing hospitalization are brought to the health facilities,” said Nograles.

Community-based operations, on the other hand, include those who undergo home isolation and quarantine which involve patients who experience mild symptoms and asymptomatic cases. This is under the care of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams.

The barangay response teams are also responsible in helping senior citizens, persons with comorbidity, and those who belong to the vulnerable sector in accessing testings, treatments, and facility referrals.

“Home isolation is recommended for those with mild or asymptomatic COVID-19. But local government units should be able to provide services such as telemedicine and immediate referral so that those requiring additional management may be assessed and treated appropriately," Nograles stated.

Lastly, intensified contact tracing of active cases will also be implemented in NCR+ up to third generation in the areas under Alert Level 2.