By Manny Mogato
(March 28, 2020) – The government has appealed to people infected with the coronavirus to voluntarily disclose their identities to the public to help authorities identify and isolate other virus carriers and help stop the spread of the pandemic disease, the spokesman of an inter-agency task force and a senator said on Saturday.
As of Friday, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has killed 54 people and sickened 803 others in the country. Thirty-one people have recovered from the disease and nearly 800 others have tested negative for the virus, but there are still 9,000 people classified as persons under investigation who need to be screened.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the designated spokesman for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), late on Friday asked public and private health facilities to “request for the consent of patients for the pubic disclosure of their identity” to help epidemiology and surveillance teams trace contacts of sick people.
The Philippines has a strict data privacy law which prohibits disclosure of personal details of all citizens, particularly health conditions, requiring the the consent of infected people first before their identities can be publicly disclosed.
People who have been in contact with an infected patient are encouraged to voluntarily come forward to help quickly cut the chain and stop the virus from further spreading, considering the current difficulty in identifying virus carriers, especially those without symptoms. It could also help shorten the lock down imposed on the entire Luzon island.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, for his part, appealed to all citizens to practice “selfless acts of responsibility to society” by coming forward to voluntarily identify themselves in “hastening to flatten the curve” and thwart the spread of the virus.
He said many public figures, like British royalty Prince Charles, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and movie icons Tom Hanks and Christopher de Leon had voluntarily and public declared their infections.
“Maybe, it is time for the ‘man of the street’ – the ordinary Filipinos – to do the same in order to alert those who they had interacted with to take the necessary measures so that the infection does not spread further,” Lacson said.
“If their identities are made public voluntarily, even through barangay bulletins, homeowners’ associations or any social media platform available, then people who they directly got in contact with can come forward to be tested and treated if needed,” Lacson said.
The IATF has started making inventories of available facilities for quarantine areas as government expects a surge in the number of cases with the increased capacity to screen for the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected the country’s coronavirus cases to explode to as many as 75,000 people in the next five weeks.
There are now nearly 500,000 cases across the world with more than 100,000 in the United States alone, exceeding that of China which has nearly 82,000 cases. Close to 24,000 had died with Italy and Spain surpassing China’s fatality of about 3,200.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said about 2,100 people have been tested but that the number could increase from three to four times as more testing kits have arrived, donated by China, Singapore and other private groups and individuals.
Nograles said all local government units, including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), have been “directed to identify government facilities that may be temporarily converted into isolation or quarantine facilities.”
Government corporations as well as other agencies are also being asked to help look for available facilities, like hotels, resorts and lodging areas which could be used to house people showing mild symptoms of the virus, including persons under investigation so they could be managed effectively.
The IATF also directed the public works and highways to conduct site inspections and immediately start construction of quarantine facilities. The department was also asked to “accredit workers” so that they could be exempted from strict home quarantine rules.
One city in Metro Manila has started preparing the site for a quarantine area while another city has requested a hotel to make available hundreds of rooms for the same purpose.
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