With the country recording its first confirmed local transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Benny Abante Jr. on Sunday urged officials of the Department of Health (DOH) to be more transparent in its updates to the public, and to ensure that there are an adequate number of test kits available in government and private hospitals in order to immediately identify suspected carriers of the coronavirus.
“The virus is not the only enemy here––widespread panic is also something we must guard against as this will only make a bad situation worse,” said the lawmaker.
“The three new cases shows just how difficult it is to stop information from trickling unto the public.”
“One way the DOH can address the fear and anxiety felt by the public is by providing them with as much helpful information as they can. The more gaps there are in the information they provide, the greater the chance that those gaps will be filled by unfounded rumors, fake news, and speculation,” stressed Abante.
Abante said that while he recognizes that privacy issues require Health officials to withhold information such as the names of those that had contracted the disease, the DOH should consider divulging information that could help the public exercise additional precautions to avoid contracting COVID -19.
The legislator said that identifying the hospital as well as the general areas where the infected individuals work should become part of the DOH communications protocol moving forward as this is information that inevitably becomes public knowledge.
“Our experience with the three new cases shows just how difficult it is to stop information from trickling unto the public via social media or forwarded messages,” Abante pointed out.
Abante likewise urged the DOH to ensure that hospitals around the country have ready access to testing kits “in order to immediately ascertain whether patients have the virus and require special care.”
“DOH should also study issuing additional guidelines or recommending protocols specific to older citizens.”
“Also, the sooner these cases are identified, the sooner we can implement protocols like contact tracing in order to prevent the spread of the virus.”
According to Abante, given that a high percentage of COVID-19 fatalities are senior citizens, “the DOH should consider coming up with special guidelines or precautionary measures that can be adopted by senior citizens.”
“As of now, the precautions they advise apply to everyone, young and old. However, given how vulnerable senior citizens are, the DOH should also study issuing additional guidelines or recommending protocols specific to older citizens as well as those with preexisting conditions.”