Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said with President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency, both the public and private sectors can be mobilized to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) threat.
Nograles said the Department of Health (DOH) is empowered to require mandatory reporting of “emerging infectious diseases” as well as perform quarantine and isolation under the Republic Act 11332 or the “Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases” to effectively centralize the processing of reported Covid-19 cases in the country.
RA 11332 was signed into law by the President in April 2019.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III raised the Code Red, Sub-Level 1 after the first confirmed case of local Covid-19 transmission.
Senate Health Committee chair Senator Bong Go later announced that the President had agreed to issue a declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency, on the recommendation of the DOH, following the confirmation.
A Code Red alert means all hospital personnel is required to report for duty in their respective facilities to provide medical services.
“We have a very robust law that provides for the establishment and maintenance of efficient and effective disease surveillance and response system at the national and local levels,” Nograles said.
He said the law also empowers the health department to order the quarantine and isolation of persons when the need arises.
“Invoking this special law addresses two concerns. One, non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern. Two, non-cooperation of persons or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern,” Nograles said.
Aside from empowering the President to declare a State of Public Health Emergency, Section 9 of the law also prohibits (1) the unauthorized disclosure of private and confidential information pertaining to a patient’s medical condition or treatment; (2) tampering of records or intentionally providing misinformation; (3) non-operation of the disease surveillance and response systems; (4) non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern; and (5) non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease or affected by the health event of public concern.
The DOH has reported that six people have been confirmed to be infected with the virus. The number includes the first case of local transmission in the country after confirming that the patient had no recent travel history.
Nograles, one of the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, added that as the lead agency with expertise on the matter, the DOH should be allowed to do its job.
“We all defer to the judgment of the DOH, in close coordination with the World Health Organization. There is a law in place that fully empowers the Health Department to fulfill its mandate, and we assure the public that the entire Executive Department is capable and ready to deploy its resources to address concerns arising from the disease,” he said. (PR)