DoH officials asked to hasten tracking of airline passengers exposed to 2019 nCoV ARD

February 05, 2020
Bong Go

AFTER the public hearing of the Senate on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (2019-nCoV ARD), Committee on Health Chair and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the Department of Health (DoH) to hasten the procedures in tracking the airline passengers who might have had contact with the tourists who tested positive for 2019-nCoV ARD infection.

“’Yan dapat hanapin talaga nila. Dapat nila panagutan ‘yan... Dapat nilang i-account. Sabi naman ng taga-PAL (Philippine Airlines) sa akin kanina, binigay raw nila ang mga pangalan,” Go told reporters in an interview.

He urged the DoH to coordinate with other government agencies. “Gamitin niyo ang mga pulis. Gamitin natin ang immigration officials. Kaya ‘yan. If there’s a will, there’s a way. May paraan talaga. Gawin niyo na may dedikasyon ang inyong trabaho, “ Go said

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted during the committee hearing that the DoH has so far contacted seventeen percent or 331 individuals only out of the total number of passengers who had been in the same flight as the patients.

The country’s only two positive cases of 2019-nCoV ARD involved two Chinese nationals from Wuhan City, China.  They arrived in the Philippines on January 21 and visited the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete. One of them died on February 1.

As for Duque’s statement that “heads will roll” due to the slow action of some health officials, Go said that the Health secretary has the right to do as he sees fit. “That is his prerogative po kung gusto niyang tanggalin ang mga tao niya. Bilang committee chair naman po ay nakatutok kami rito sa Senado,” the senator said.

He also agree with Duque’s statement that the coordination between government agencies should be improved. “Dapat. Trabaho nila ‘yan. Dapat ayusin ninyo ‘yung sistema ninyo, coordination, kaya nga meron kayong Inter-Agency Task Force para pag-usapan at gumawa kayo ng solusyon sa bawat problemang darating sa atin,” he said.

The senator said that he is open to calling another public hearing on the 2019 nCoV ARD if necessary. “Kung kakailanganin po, magpapatawag ako, para mawala ‘yung pangamba ng mga Pilipino.”

Overall, however, Go is thankful to the key officials who attended the hearing and informed the public on the precautionary measures already in place to protect Filipinos.

“Maraming katanungan ang publiko na nasagot naman po ng ating mga resource persons, at salamat din po sa lahat ng nag-attend na Cabinet members. Mula sa kanilang mga bunganga talaga ang mga sagot,” Go said.

“’Yun po ang gustong marinig ng publiko, maliwanagan ‘yung mga issue, maliwanagan ‘yung pangamba. Ngayon panahon na po na magtulungan na po tayo,” he added.

Aside from Duque, the other resource persons included World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Education Secretary Leonor Briones, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and some health experts, among others.  

Go recognized Abeyasinghe’s statement that the situation is alarming. “Oo, alarming, high-risk nga ang ating status. Ngayon dapat i-contain talaga natin. Tama ‘yung meron tayong travel ban sa ngayon, at kung kailangan pong dagdagan, maaaring irekomenda po ito ng Inter-Agency Task Force sa ating Pangulo.”

He is requesting the public to cooperate with the government. “Huwag na po tayong mag-panic. Huwag tayong magkalat ng mga fake news. Tulungan po natin ang ating mga kababayan. Huwag nating dagdagan ang problema natin,” he said.

“’Yung mga nag-spread ng maling balita, fake news, bashers, kayo ang dapat i-quarantine. Baka kayo ang makahawa,” he added.

During the hearing, Go sought answers from concerned officials and health experts on how the government can step up its efforts and ensure that the virus will not spread further throughout the country.

“Nandito po tayo para maliwanagan ang publiko tungkol sa isyu na ito,” he said.

“Unahin natin ang kapakanan, kalusugan at interes ng bawat Pilipino. Sa mga panahong tulad ngayon na ikinakakaba natin ang magiging kalagayan ng ating pamilya at mga mahal sa buhay, dapat ay mas lalong magtulungan tayo. Magkaisa at magbayanihan tayo para sa ikabubuti ng bawat Filipino,” he added.

Key government officials invited in the hearing took the opportunity to communicate to the public the precautionary measures already in place to protect Filipinos from the spread of the virus.  

Go also assured the public that the government has been on top of the situation and is committed to assist Filipinos and the rest of the world in laying down measures to mitigate the impact of the 2019-nCov ARD on the worldwide community.