DOH sets public health standards for LGUs to prevent COVID spread

By Leonard T. Pineda I

The Department of Health Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH WV CHD) has provided local government units (LGUs) with the guidelines on public health standards to mitigate and suppress transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a virtual press briefing, Dr. Ma. Sophia Pulmones, DOH-6 Local Health Support Division Chief, said that these public health standards are contained in Administrative Order (AO) No. 2020-0015, which serves as a guide in institutionalizing key non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to combat COVID-19.

“We have shared these guidelines in the AO to local government units and other partners to serve as a guide on how they will implement the risk-public health standards in the different settings in our communities,” she said.

The order aims to provide guidance on sectoral planning on the implementation of NPIs as minimum public health standards to mitigate the threat of COVID-19, and shall serve as a basis in the decision-making process and development of more specific sectoral policies for COVID-19 response.

“NPIs refer to public health measures that do not involve vaccines, medications or other pharmaceutical interventions, that individuals and communities can carry out in order to reduce transmission rates, contact rates, and the duration of infectiousness of individuals in the population,” Pulmones said.

The following are the COVID-19 mitigation objectives in the administrative order: increase physical and mental resilience; reduce transmission; reduce contact; and reduce the duration of infection.

In terms of increasing physical and mental resilience, it is important to ensure access to basic needs of individuals, including food, water, shelter, and sanitation; promote basic respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette; protect essential workforce through the provision of food, PPE and other commodities, lodging, and shuttle services as necessary; protect the mental health and general welfare of individuals, among others.

“There are some who undergo depression and anxiety due to isolation, so there is a need for interventions to address these concerns,” Pulmones said.

To reduce transmission, the public is encouraged to do frequent hand washing with soap and water, and discourage the touching of the eyes, nose, and mouth, such as through appropriate information and education campaigns.

Likewise, symptomatic individuals are encouraged to stay at home unless there is a pressing need to go to a health facility for medical consultation if virtual consultation is not possible.

Pulmones said strict physical distancing should be implemented at all times, especially in public areas, workstations, eating areas, queues, and other high traffic areas, to reduce contact.

To reduce the duration of infection, it is necessary to identify symptomatic individuals and immediately isolate, such as through the use of temperature scanning, symptom self-monitoring, and voluntary disclosure.

Also, it is vital to coordinate symptomatic individuals through appropriate health system entry points such as primary care facilities or teleconsulting platforms; and trace and quarantine close contacts of confirmed individuals consistent with DOH guidelines. (PIA)