MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines must step up its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a senator said Wednesday, criticizing the government for praising themselves while the country is facing a sharp spike of infections.
"They have to get a grip on the situation because their performance so far is far from excellent. Kaya hindi ko maintindahan at matanggap 'yong patting themselves on the back na ginagawa nila sa ngayon (That's why I couldn't understand and accept the patting themselves on the back that they're doing now)," Sen. Risa Hontiveros told ANC.
"My call to them right now because there is no excuse to give up and to make our people lose hope all the more is to step up. Step up literally," she added.
Hontiveros called for standardized contact tracing, targeted and periodic testing, expanded and timely ayuda or aid, and protection of health workers and their families.
The government must also upscale and upgrade health facilities, and push for the completion of national vaccination program, she added.
Amid the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases, which reached over 15,000 cases on April 2, the senator wants a revamp of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases wherein several former military generals hold key positions.
"The sorry state we are in right now ay dahil sa napakamahina at hindi mahusay na pandemic response sa pamumuno ng IATF (is because of the weak and insufficient pandemic response of IATF)," she said.
"We need at the helm of IATF not military officials but public health specialists [and] epidemiologists dahil sila ang may kayang gumawa ng (because they are capable of making) health decisions that we need. Sila ang kayang mag-deliver ng (They can deliver) quality health response crisis that we need," she added.
In a press release, the senator lambasted the IATF for its alleged lack of humility in not recognizing its shortcomings, which led hospitals from being overrun with COVID-19 patients.
"Incompetence is killing the Filipino people," she said.
On World Health Day 2021, which is celebrated on April 7 every year, Hontiveros urged the DOH to ensure uninterrupted non-COVID health services such as tuberculosis and cancer, and also issues with mental health.
"We can rise from the pandemic and prevent the collapse of our healthcare system only if we make sure that no one, no sector, no community, and no group, is left behind. All health must be guaranteed," she said.
In March, Malacañang said the government showed "excellent" management of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it has brought the crisis under control compared to richer countries.
A consultant to the government's task force had also said the Philippines was faring better than other countries in responding to the pandemic.
The raging crisis has so far claimed over 13,800 lives in the country. Total infections stood at more than 812,000, among the worst in Southeast Asia.