MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the Philippines under a state of public health emergency to arrest the spread of novel coronavirus infections after authorities confirmed local transmissions of the disease.
Over the weekend, health authorities confirmed 7 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 10. Duterte's order came nearly 3 weeks after the Department of Health suggested declaring a public health emergency when the first cases emerged.
"The outbreak of COVID-19 constitutes an emergency that threatens national security which requires a whole-of-government response..." Duterte said in Proclamation No. 922 signed on Sunday.
"The declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency would capacitate government agencies and LGUs to immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, mitigate its effects and impact to the community, and prevent serious disruption of the functioning of the government and the community," he said.
The declaration shall remain in effect until the President lifts or withdraws it.
With Duterte's proclamation, all government agencies and local government units are urged to mobilize the necessary resources to "eliminate the COVID-19 threat."
The health chief is also given authority to call upon the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies for assistance in addressing the threat of the virus.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said the President's proclamation paves the way for easier procurement of medical supplies needed to contain the virus as well as access to sufficient funding for agencies, including local government units, for proper response to the disease outbreak.
Duque added that the proclamation gives the government powers for mandatory quarantine of patients and requires health authorities to provide updates on issues concerning the disease outbreak.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Sunday said Duterte's move came "after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public."
Over the weekend, the health department raised the country's alert system to Code Red, Sub-level 1 because of the virus, which was meant to serve as a "preemptive call" for authorities and health workers to "prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases."
COVID-19 has killed 3,792 people while infecting more than 109,000 in 95 countries worldwide.
-with a report from Agence-France Presse