DOH recommends public health emergency declaration over coronavirus spread

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2020 02:12 PM | Updated as of Mar 07 2020 04:24 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Health (DOH) said Saturday it had recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the declaration of a state of public health emergency amid the continuing spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This, after health authorities raised the alert level to Code Red after the country recorded its first local transmission of the virus and confirmed a sixth case, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

"This is a preemptive call to ensure national and local government and public and private healthcare providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases," he said in a press briefing.

The declaration of a state of public health emergency "will facilitate mobilization of resources, eased processes, including procurement of critical logistics and supplies, and intensifying reporting and quarantine measures," he said. 

In a letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea dated Feb. 21, when only three COVID-19 cases had been confirmed, Duque already recommended the declaration of a state of public health emergency upon confirmation of local transmission. 

He said this "ensures a whole-of-government response," citing a "four-door framework" adopted by the interagency task force on infectious diseases. 

"Under this framework, the identification of even one case due to local transmission or sustained community transmission beyond hospital and community surge capacity puts us in the fourth or last door," said Duque in his letter.

This would entail activation of Code Red, which requires that "all human and material resources must be made available for duty and deployment." 

He said a declaration of public health emergency "would be crucial to facilitate the sufficient and immediate access to funding, particularly for local government units, and ease processes on procurement, mandatory reporting, mandatory quarantine, and travel restrictions, among others." 

"It would also put to rest questions on whether an automatic price freeze on medicines and medical supplies may be made by the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry," he said. 

Government had earlier expressed readiness to respond to an outbreak. 

"There is no need for alarm and worry because from the very start we are ready," Panelo said on Friday, after two more cases were confirmed. 

"All protocols are established and all [the Department of Health has to do is] to implement them."

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado also said earlier government has enough funds to handle the COVID-19 outbreak.

Duque earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the health department's request for a P2-billion fund to prevent the spread of the disease.