Health workers with symptoms to get tested for COVID-19

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Healthcare workers exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus disease can now be tested for possible infection, the Department of Health said Tuesday. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — Healthcare workers exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus disease can now be tested for possible infection, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

The agency said it has amended its testing policy to include healthcare workers who exhibit even mild flu-like symptoms considered as red flags. These workers are now part of those “vulnerable” to the disease known as COVID-19.

"Amin po inaamiyendahan ang aming polisiya kung saan po ang ating patients under investigation, kasama na po ngayon ang lahat ng ating healthcare workers na may sintomas,” said Ma. Rosario Vergeire, Health Spokesperson in an online media briefing.

[Translation: We are amending our policy for patients under investigation to include our healthcare workers with symptoms.]

This is in light of health centers allegedly refusing to treat healthcare workers, Vergeire said.

“So kahit mild lang po ang sintomas ng ating health care workers kasama na po sila, bigyan po natin sila ng test, kuhanan na ng specimens at ating alagaan,” she said.

[Translation: So even if the symptoms of our healthcare workers are mild, let us give them a test, let us take their specimens and let us take care of them.]

The Philippine Medical Association confirmed that 17 doctors succumbed to COVID-19.Under the guidelines, only those with severe symptoms of the viral disease, such as difficulty in breathing and prolonged cough and fever will be tested for the disease.

Elderly people, pregnant women and immunocompromised persons or those with weakened immune system will also be tested even if they show only mild symptoms, as they have higher risks of infection.

Prior to these protocols, only people who have been exposed to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or have recently visited countries with cases of local transmission were tested.

Earlier, a nurse group called on the government to prioritize healthcare workers in its testing protocol.

“All healthcare workers, especially po ang (our) nurses (who are) PUI or PUM should be prioritized in testing,” the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) said in a statement.

The group said the move will make contact tracing easier and provide faster response to the infected.

“Manpower is already depleted so kapag tested and negative naman, makakabalik agad sa trabaho,” PNA added.

[Translation: Manpower is already depleted, so if they are tested negative, they can go back to work.]

The Health department said some prominent personalities, including high-ranking politicians, have made direct requests for testing at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. The so-called “VIP testing” drew flak from netizens.