The National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Tuesday said the Department of Health has been “walking a fine line” in releasing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patient information to the public.
“The DOH has been cautious in upholding patients’ confidentiality. It is releasing only information that is necessary to protect public health during this time of emergency without sacrificing its duty to determine cases and conduct contact-tracing to contain the virus,” NPC Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro said in a statement.
The unnecessary disclosure of personal information of those infected with Covid-19, Liboro said, may have consequences “far worse than the disease itself.”
Following claims of lack of transparency on Covid-19 patients and persons under investigation (PUI), Liboro said revealing the identities or providing information that could be used to identify these patients or PUIs may discourage those with symptoms to be tested.
“If people believe that their identities will be released to the public when they come out for testing, they may be discouraged to come out—making it more difficult for the DOH and the rest of the inter-agency task force to identify more Covid-19 cases,” Liboro said.
Such information, he said, may produce fear and distress but may also make the public adopt the right precautions to stop the spread of the virus.
Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a public health emergency on Covid-19, Liboro said the Data Privacy Act does not prevent the government, especially public health entities, from processing sensitive information when necessary.
“The Data Privacy Act does not prevent the government from doing its job,” Liboro said.
He also called on the public to be responsible in sharing sensitive information, noting that only information helpful in contact tracing should be collected and disclosed to the public.
“Only pertinent information necessary in facilitating contact tracing should be collected, such as but not limited to: travel history, and frequented locations,” Liboro said.
Earlier, the DOH said the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases increased to 33 after nine more patients tested positive for the respiratory disease.
On Monday, Malacañang ordered the suspension of classes in all levels in the National Capital Region following a surge in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country. (PNA)