DOH: Coronavirus scare helping people become more health-conscious

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2020 11:39 PM

MANILA — While the spread of COVID-19 in China has resulted in panic-buying and discrimination, health officials believe that it has also positively affected attitude of Filipinos towards health.

“We can see on social media that our advisories on cough etiquette and hand washing are getting traction and are being shared by more people during the COVID-19 Health Event,” Health Assistant Secretary for Public Health Services Maria Rosario Vergeire told ABS-CBN News.

Vergeire said it’s a good thing that “less people are wearing masks and instead practice general preventive measures.”

At the onset of the epidemic, which has mostly affected China, Filipinos ended up panic-buying face masks to protect themselves from infection. But the Department of Health repeatedly said that only health workers are in dire need of face masks and the rest of the population can rely on good health practices instead.

“More and more people are being informed through our advisories and in turn practice healthy lifestyles,” Vergeire added. “All of these may mean that the Filipino people are becoming more vigilant and concerned about their health.”

The health official said that while it is hard to assess behavioral changes in a short period of time, the government is hoping that Filipinos will be able to sustain their improved hygiene and health practices even after the spread of COVID-19, which has claimed 2,000 lives and infected at least 74,000 people, is controlled.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also told ABS-CBN News that during past epidemics, international experts have seen improvements in the health of people as they became more careful.

“Another study that showed significant reduction in diarrhea cases after handwashing behavior improved during the AH1N1 pandemic,” he said in a text message, referring to a subtype of influenza A virus that resulted in an outbreak in 2009.

Duque reminded the public that regular handwashing “lower risks for infection with seasonal flu compared to those who had poor handwashing practices.”

There have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines. All three are Chinese nationals who traveled from Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.

While one of them died due to the illness, the two others have recovered and are no longer infected. Despite this, local health officials are bracing for the possibility of local transmissions such as in countries like Singapore and Thailand.

The spread of COVID-19 has already been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.