The Department of Interior and Local Government has directed one of its attached agencies, the Bureau of Fire Protection, to assist local health officials in the implementation of Oplan Kalinga, the program to move COVID cases from their houses to Ligtas COVID-19 centers.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año emphasized that reports that government will allegedly conduct “house-to-house search” to be led by the police or the military in police-type operations are fake news and is part of the disinformation campaign by unscrupulous individuals. “Again, I repeat, the police are there merely in a supporting role,” he added.
He also said that Republic Act No 11332 provides legal authority for quarantine and isolation purposes and penalizes non-cooperation of persons who have a notifiable disease or are affected by a health event of public concern and this is what Oplan Kalinga seeks to achieve.
The DILG Secretary said that assigning the BFP in the movement of COVID patients to isolation facilities is nothing new since they have been doing this since the beginning of the pandemic. “The BFP is part of the Municipal/City COVID-19 Task Forces and in this capacity they have been assisting the City/Municipal Health Office transport COVID patients since the start of the pandemic. In fact, they have so far transported 1,674 COVID patients nationwide,” he said.
He explained that the BFP’s Emergency Medical Service and Special Rescue Units have the necessary health personnel and equipment in the transportation of COVID patients and that the BFP will work closely with the Local Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (LESU) of the LGU who takes the lead in Oplan Kalinga.
He nonetheless clarified that a COVID patient is allowed to do home quarantine if he has a separate room where the patient can be confined; if the patient has his own comfort room; and if he is not living with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 such as senior citizen and immunocompromised individuals, among others.
He said that since the start of the pandemic, the Bureau of Fire Protection has mobilized 73.80% of the total BFP personnel or 20,947 officers out of the 29,383 total manpower to different tasks as part of DILG’s efforts to defeat COVID-19.
Some 1,207 BFP vehicles nationwide have been tasked for decontamination, water rationing, flushing at control points, patient transport and other ancillary services. “We have deployed 98 BFP EMS ambulances, 35 Rescue/HazMat vehicles, 970 firetrucks and 114 BFP service vehicles for the DILG’s over-all COVID 19 response,” he said.
The DILG Secretary also directed the BFP to intensify its contact tracing efforts as part of the local Contact Tracing and Monitoring Teams. “The BFP’s contact tracing efforts have assisted in the tracing of the close contacts of some 18,871 patients,” he said.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that at present, the BFP has 78 active COVID cases among its ranks but most of them have mild symptoms and are currently recuperating. “They are all under isolation, under treatment and are under close health monitoring. Unfortunately, we have had 2 deaths due to COVID from the ranks of the BFP.” he said.
Malaya said that the BFP personnel are also currently manning the Filinvest Tent Megaquarantine Facility where BFP doctors, nurses, psychologists, and administrative personnel attend to the needs of some 139 admissions.
“The BFP also mans the Philippine Arena swabbing facility where 96 testing booths conduct swabbing and collect specimens for laboratory examination,” he said.