Philippine Transport Department eyes use of ships as ‘floating quarantine hospitals’

A member of the Philippine Coast Guard takes the temperature of  a crew member aboard a ship, March 23, <i>Photo for illustration purposes only: PCG / FB</i>
A member of the Philippine Coast Guard takes the temperature of a crew member aboard a ship, March 23, Photo for illustration purposes only: PCG / FB

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is coordinating with private shipowners in the Philippines about a plan to transform vessels into “floating quarantine hospitals” as several healthcare facilities in Metro Manila have found themselves overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a March 26 letter addressed to lawmaker Senator Francis Tolentino that he’s planning “to commission private passenger vessels,” in addition to vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and transform them into medical facilities.

Tugade cited section four of the newly passed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte is empowered to take over public transport and “direct the operation of any privately-owned passenger vessels to serve as temporary medical facilities.” He added that the so-called “floating quarantine” facilities may be fitted with necessary medical equipment and can be deployed to any part of the country, GMA News reports.

He added in his letter that the PCG “offered to supervise said floating quarantine hospitals and deploy doctors and nurses to augment the dwindling number of existing civilian doctors, nurses and health workers, in coordination with the Department of Health.”

While no timeline has been detailed about the proposal, Tolentino said in a statement to The Philippine Daily Inquirer today that the proposal, once approved, will “ease the burden of our public medical facilities in addressing the growing need for hospital beds during this time of a national health emergency.”

“We hope that this proposal will hit the ground running at the soonest possible time,” the senator added.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in the country to continue its rise, with 1,546 cases recorded as of this afternoon, 78 of whom have died, and 42 of whom have recovered.

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