Villages (barangays) nationwide must form their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) to help the government address the crisis which was brought about by the 2019 novel coronavirus within their own community.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said this on Sunday, stressing that each barangay must be adequately informed about the disease and prepared to adopt protocols in containing it.
"We have to prepare, God forbids, for the possible eventuality that 2019 nCOV ARD reaches our communities,” he said. “I, therefore, order our local chief executives (LCEs) to organize BHERTs in all barangays as our effort to be one step ahead of the virus. Kailangan nating paghandaan ito.”
Año said each barangay chairperson or Punong Barangay (PB) must appoint BHERT members composed of an executive officer, a barangay tanod, and two barangay health workers, one of them a nurse or a midwife. BHERT members shall be equipped with protective gears such as surgical gowns, goggles, masks, and gloves.
He said the BHERTs would serve as the eyes and ears of the government to make sure that residents within their jurisdictions are all accounted for and are fully informed about the coronavirus.
In his Department of Interior and Local Government Memorandum (DILG) Circular 2020-018, Año said that BHERTs should visit the home of arriving passengers from a coronavirus-infected country within the locality. They will then list down the names of persons that the suspect has had contact with or without a copy of the list of arrivals from the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
The BHERTs shall also require newly-arrived passengers in their localities to record daily body temperature in the morning and afternoon, for the next 14 days of home confinement, and observe possible coronavirus symptoms.
Last week, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first case of coronavirus infection in the Philippines, sending people into panic and making unscrupulous businessmen rake in money for hoarding medical supplies, particularly face masks.
According to the DOH, carriers of the dreaded disease usually manifest symptoms of cough and colds, fever, difficulty in breathing, and shortness of breath, which can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney problems, and even death.
If symptoms are observed, BHERTs must immediately isolate the coronavirus suspect in a room away from the rest of the family members. The suspect shall then be required to wear an N95 mask before transferring to a DOH-designated coronavirus-referral center or hospital for further tests and treatment.
In case of a lack of resources to transport the suspect, the case should immediately be referred to the local government concerned for assistance.
Family members of suspected coronavirus carriers must also be placed on 14-day home confinement and repeat the process of checking, including contact tracing.
Año said that if the suspect did not manifest any signs, BHERTs must still report the case to the City or Municipal Health Officer for the lifting of home confinement.
Earlier, the DILG Chief ordered barangay leaders to conduct an intensified information campaign on the coronavirus prevention, containment, and control; set up a Barangay Information or Call Center to facilitate the reporting of coronavirus suspects, and conduct a massive clean-up drive in the community.
As anti-coronavirus information managers, LCEs must help dispel rumors or false information about the disease to prevent panic and hysteria among the people.
“Tayo ay humaharap sa isang krisis, at lubhang napakahalaga ng pakikiisa ng mga barangay at mga mamamayan upang mapagtagumpayan natin ang suliraning ito," Año said.