PH Now Under State Of Emergency With 20 Total Cases. What Do We Do To Protect Ourselves?
What does it mean to be put under a state of public health emergency and what should we be doing to contain the virus?
Upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines is officially placed under a state of public health emergency, following the Department of Health (DOH) declaration of the Covid-19 alert to Code Red Sublevel 1. Proclamation 922, which puts the country under a state of public health emergency, was signed on Sunday after new cases were confirmed over the weekend.
“The declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency would capacitate government agencies and LGUs to immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, mitigate its effects and impact to the community, and prevent serious disruption of the functioning of the government and the community,” says Duterte in a report by ABS-CBN News.
What does the declaration mean?
According to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, putting the Philippines under a state of public health emergency would make it easier for medical and government institutions to procure medical supplies needed to contain the virus and respond to the outbreak. It is also to urge public and private healthcare providers to prepare for a possible increase in cases.
Currently, there are 20 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines. The first three were Chinese nationals, one dead and two of whom have gone back to China. The fourth is a 48-year-old employee of Deloitte Philippines with travel history in Japan. The fifth is 62-year-old man who DOH said was “known to have regularly visited a Muslim prayer hall in Barangay Greenhills, San Juan City.” The sixth is a 59-year-old woman and wife of patient #5. The seventh is a 38-year-old Taiwanese currently at Makati Medical Center. Patient #8 is a 32-year-old man who traveled to Japan and began to feel the symptoms on March 5. Patient #9 is a 86-year-old American who recently traveled to South Korea and the US. Patient #10 is a 57-year-old man who was in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient.
As of writing, ten new additional cases have just been confirmed, according to ABS-CBN News.
What do we do now?
In light of this declaration, DOH urges everyone not to panic, but instead, be more cautious in protecting yourself and practicing good hygiene.
According to Dr. Salvana, the Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health at the University of the Philippines Manila, and a Clinical Associate Professor and Research Coordinator at the Section of Infectious Diseases of the Department of Medicine at the Philippine General Hospital, the biggest precaution that people can do now is to avoid physical contact since the virus is transmitted through droplets (via sneezing, coughing, or even talking).
Dr. Salvana said in a tweet: “Based on the Chinese experience, the only thing that seems to have a major impact on transmission is social distancing. We do not want to wait until we have a case load as high as Wuhan because even they had a hard time controlling and they have much more resources than we have. We need to think of preemptive social distancing now if we want to have a chance to contain.”
Best practices to observe
Dr. Salvana reminds everyone not to panic. He says, “This virus is survivable, and can be controlled. It will be painful. It looks super contagious, and extreme social distancing can work if we cooperate.”
Because of this, many local governments have suspended classes and events to stop the virus from spreading. As of writing, Caloocan and Marikina have suspended classes in all levels until March 11; Manila suspended classes in all levels until March 15; and Pasay has suspended classes in all levels indefinitely. Marikina has also suspended the Palarong Pambansa 2020. Baguio has already cancelled the Panagbenga festival, while voter registration has been suspended, as well.
According to Sec. Duque, it’s best to refrain from visiting public places and/or attending mass gatherings in the meantime. It’s also best to practice proper cough etiquette, and wash your hands often and properly because the virus can land and stay on surfaces.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands often after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
According to Sanford Health chief medical officer Allison Suttle, M.D., “[When] I touch the surface and then I touch my face—my eyes, my nose, my mouth—that’s how I get infected with the coronavirus. That’s where hand-washing becomes so important. Alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, just soap and water will get rid of the virus. That is all it takes.”
If possible, work from home and avoid going out. Those who display any symptoms like coughing or sneezing should stay at home and only go out to see a doctor.
Wearing a mask will also be very helpful, but when there’s low supply, it’s more important that they be reserved for medical workers and those who are sick. If you’re not sick, it’s better to offer your mask to someone else who needs it.
Avoid traveling as much as possible. Currently, the virus has spread to 109 countries and territories all over the globe. It’s best to quarantine yourself if you’re coming back from a recent travel, especially if you’re coming from a country with a high number of Covid-19 cases.
Dr. Salvana reminds everyone to “Follow instructions and understand that a sacrifice is being asked of everyone for the greater good. Now is the time to help each other by putting our individual impulses aside and being proactive. Filipinos have shown tremendous resilience through the years, be it typhoon, earthquake or volcano. No virus can defeat us.”