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Experts highlight importance of isolation, quarantine as COVID cases surge

With the surge in COVID-19 cases, health experts reminded the public to practice home isolation if symptoms are present or do proper quarantine if exposed to someone who was infected to control the spread of the virus.

Medical experts also emphasized the need to arm the public with the right information while urging constant discussion of protocols with all family members to better prepare for the possibility that a loved one could be infected.

Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, an infectious disease expert, said the best way to avoid anxiety and panic in times like this is to be well-equipped and updated with the right knowledge and information.

“We have to acknowledge this is what people feel, but instead of panic, I think it is more prudent to prepare,” Ong-Lim said during the webinar “Tanong ng Bayan: Ano ang gagawin sa gitna ng Omicron surge?”

The event was presented by Alaga sa Kalusugan ng Pamayanan (AKAP), a program for community health initiatives of Unilab, Inc. in collaboration with the Department of Health, Department of Education, and the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Health Care, among others.

“You have to establish contact with somebody who will support or supervise you if you get sick. It’s not just physical health that we’re taking care of but also our mental health,” she added.

Dr. Ong-Lim said even if testing is not available, one must immediately isolate if feeling unwell.

For those who live in small spaces like condominiums or houses that do not have plenty of rooms for each family member, Dr. Ong-Lim said it is better to at least maintain distance from each other, ensure proper ventilation, and keep wearing masks at home.

She clarified that isolation is for people who have started exhibiting COVID symptoms, while quarantine is for those who have been exposed to COVID-positive individuals even if they are asymptomatic.

According to Dr. Beverly Ho of the DOH Health Promotion Bureau, the new guidelines set the isolation period of probable, asymptomatic, and mild cases at seven days if they are fully vaccinated and 10 days for partially vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Based on the working guidelines that the DOH has considered, the quarantine period of asymptomatic close contacts who are fully vaccinated was shortened to five days from seven days. If they are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and have been exposed to COVID-positive individuals, they will need to quarantine for 14 days.

However, after this shortened period, the exposed person should still continue to monitor for symptoms up to 14 days, wear a well-fitting mask and strictly adhere to minimum public health standards, as there is still a chance that symptoms can manifest after the 5th day.

Dr. Ong-Lim expressed concern that people are becoming a bit complacent because of reports that the Omicron variant is less severe than other COVID variants.

“We shouldn’t dismiss any symptom. We should isolate immediately. Our goal at this point is to control the spread of the infection. That is why immediate isolation is critical,” she said.

She said particularly vulnerable are unvaccinated children because even the simple cold and flu can put them in a bad condition.

“It’s difficult to isolate a child because they need constant supervision. So even before, we recommend that if you’re caring for a child or someone who has the virus, you should wear a mask, wash hands immediately, and have proper ventilation. Same treatment with the elderly,” she added.

The medical expert also advised the public to have regular discussions with family members on the home remedies and protocols so everybody will be better prepared in case a loved one has been infected.

“Home remedies are still effective – increase hydration, drink citrus drinks but not too much sugar, and cold compress to lower temperature, among others,” she said.

“If mild or moderate, isolation is okay so that hospitals will not be overburdened with cases that can be managed at home, to give way to severe cases and non-COVID cases that need immediate medical care.”

AKAP Tanong ng Bayan e-talk shows on COVID-19 aim to equip the audience with right, relevant and sufficient information to guide the public on how they can prevent and/or manage COVID-19 infections.

To watch the recent Tanong ng Bayan e-talk, log on to https://www.facebook.com/akapguroconnected/videos/295788025941776

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