Wellness

Face Masks at Home an 'Option' to Protect the Vulnerable, Says DOH

It's an option.

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Wearing face masks at home is an "option" if some members of the household are vulnerable to COVID-19, The Department of Health said Thursday, as it called for heightened vigilance against the resurgent virus.

Double masking, as it is being advocated in the U.S., however is "not recommended yet" in the Philippines, said Dr. Beverly Ho, who leads the DOH communications arm. The country requires face shields over face masks at in public places at all times.

People over 60 and those with heart disease, diabetes and other conditions that compromise their immune system are at high risk of severe COVID, according to the World Health Organization.

The surge has in part been blamed on increased mobility and workers who unwittingly bring the virus home, giving rise to household transmissions. In Quezon City for example, of the 722 positive cases from Feb. 28 to Mar. 13, 104 cases or 14% of them occurred in workplaces with many employees.

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"If you do have vulnerable family members at home, kunwari kayo nagwowork, if there's very limited space sa bahay then masking is going to be an option at home," Ho told Summit Sandwich Sessions.

Pandemic fatigue

The surge has prompted Metro Manila mayors to impose a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew until March 31. The country's borders were shut to foreigners and non-OFWs until April 20. There are also local lockdowns in Manila, Pasay and Navotas.

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Ho said some people let down their guard as far as observing minimum health standards -- wearing of face masks and face shields, hand washing and physical distancing. "Tao lang din, napapagod. We see certain breaches or lapses."

"Klaro sa atin, walang sinisisi. It is always going to be a mix of factors that will cause a certain spike in cases," she said.

"This is not something that the Philippines alone is experiencing. Pendulum siya," she said.

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Local lockdowns working

Granular lockdowns in at least two cities in Metro Manila and a region-wide curfew could halve the rise in COVID-19 infections by the end of March, OCTA Research Group said, describing the outbreak in the capital region of 12 million people as "serious."

By the end of the month, there could be 4,000 new cases per day compared to 7,500 if new restrictions were not put in place. The OCTA projection cited lockdowns in Pasay and Navotas. The city of Manila had also placed several barangays under lockdown.

The Pasay and Navotas lockdowns reduced the R to 1.8 from 2, OCTA said. This indicator refers to the number of people a COVID-positive person can infect. By April the projected daily cases in Metro Manila would be down to 6,000 from 16,000.

The Philippines reported its highest single-day increase on Aug. 10, 2020 with 6,958 new cases. It included the entire country.

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"Together, with reduced mobility, cufews, stricter implementation of health protocols and city ordinances, this can help reduce the reproduction number in NCR to more manageable levels," OCTA Research said.

Stronger response

While infections are rising, the Philippines now has the infrastructure to respond to the pandemic, said Ho, who has been among the mouthpeices of the DOH for a year now.

"In terms of investments in our health facilities, testing capacities, human resources trained, personnel on the ground, I do think my view is more long term. We know the pandemic has triggered investments that it hasn't done so in the past," she said.

Ho described her job as "very challenging" as doctors are not trained to communicate to the public. "A lot is still not set science. Every month, every week, you really have new things that come out," she said.

"Communicating something uncertain is an extra challenge for us. We have a lot of lessons learned in terms of coordinating, operationlizing what everyone commonly says, whole of society approach, whole of government approach," she said.

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This story originally appeared on Reportr.world.

* Minor edits have been made by the Realliving.com.ph editors.

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