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COVID-19 ROUNDUP: Households Become New Battlegrounds; Mass Hiring Of HCWs Pressed; FDA Warns Against Nasal Spray Products

COVID-19 ROUNDUP: Households Become New Battlegrounds; Mass Hiring Of HCWs Pressed; FDA Warns Against Nasal Spray Products
A police officer monitors Tabigo Street in Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City on July 29, 2021 after it was placed on lockdown due to the detection of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the area. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

Households are now the battlegrounds in the fight against COVID-19 due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, according to a member of the Department of Science and Technology Vaccine Expert Panel (DOST-VEP).

DOST-VEP member Rontgene Solante said while the work place is still “an important point of exposure” for COVID-19, the transmission of the virus is now higher in the household.

“When we are in our households, we don’t usually observe health protocols, unlike when we are at the work place. We let our guard down when we are at home,” he noted in a phone interview with The Philippine STAR on Saturday, Sept. 11.

According to Solante, people would go out for work and do errands but they would still come home and this is where “secondary attacks” happen.

“They would get exposed to the infection outside and then they would bring it to their household where they spend most of their time,” he added.

The expert underscored that even at home, health protocols such as washing hands and physical distancing should be strictly observed.

He said having less interaction with household members, especially those going out, is “very vital” to preventing infection.

“For household members that are highly vulnerable like children and elderly, they should not have prolonged interactions with those who are going out,” he added.

Solante also maintained that getting vaccinated and having “adequate ventilation” are important preventive measures against COVID-19.

Read more: ‘Household Transmission’ Causing Rise In COVID Cases — Expert

More healthcare workers needed

Groups of medical frontliners repeated their call for the government to begin mass hiring of health care workers (HCWs) as COVID-19 cases in the country continue to soar due to the more contagious Delta variant.

On Saturday, the Department of Health (DOH) logged an all-time-high 26,303 new infections.

At a press briefing, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) and Alliance of Health Workers (AHWs) said many HCWs have resigned due to exhaustion and disappointment at government’s failure to address their dismal conditions in the battle against the pandemic.

FNU president Maristela Abenojar said 50 to 100 of their members have already resigned from their respective hospitals since July this year. Abenojar noted the ideal ratio for nurses and COVID-19 patients is 1:4 while 1:1 for patients at the ICU wards. But at present, a nurse attends to as many as 200 patients because of the surge.

“They opted to resign because they are now losing hope that their conditions will improve. Cases of COVID-19 are rising but they are not given ample protection by the government,” she said.

Abenojar added that despite the sacrifices of nurses and health workers in this pandemic, they are not only under-salaried, but also unpaid of their benefits like the special risk allowance and meals, accommodation and transportation allowance.

AHW president Robert Mendoza stressed many nurses have resigned out of exhaustion due to the soaring number of COVID-19 patients driven by Delta variant.

Mendoza claimed there has long been “understaffing” in hospitals before this was aggravated by the pandemic.

“There should be mass hiring now and there should be regular plantilla positions,” he said. “Give our health workers the right salaries and benefits so that we can encourage them to stay.”

He said that what the frontliners are getting in terms of salaries and other compensation are not commensurate to the risks they face every minute they care for COVID-19 patients.

Many of them have already contracted COVID-19, he added.

Out of fear and frustration, many health workers are resigning, especially since the government already eased the moratorium on the deployment of nurses abroad, Mendoza said.

Caution versus nasal spray products out

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cautioned the public against misleading claims of Nasal Spray products that they can be used as prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

In FDA Advisory No. 2021-2289 issued on Sept. 10, FDA director general Eric Domingo said the nasal spray products have been authorized in the Philippines as “medical devices which are intended for short-term use in the nasal cavity and serves as mechanical barriers from particulates.”

He noted these products are sprays that “coat the nasal mucosa with substances that have non-specific effect against pathogens.”

“They should not be used as substitute to medicines and vaccines to prevent or treat SARS-CoV-2 or COVID,19,” the advisory read.

Domingo said the products do not have active pharmaceutical ingredients that directly treat, eliminate or prevent diseases.

The agency asked the public to be vigilant and cautious in using products with claims against prevention and treatment of COVID-19.