During a Senate public hearing on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (2019-nCoV ARD), Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday, February 4, sought answers from concerned officials and health experts on how the government can step up its efforts and ensure that the virus will not spread further throughout the country.
“Nandito po tayo para maliwanagan ang publiko tungkol sa isyu na ito,” he said.
“Unahin natin ang kapakanan, kalusugan at interes ng bawat Pilipino. Sa mga panahong tulad ngayon na ikinakakaba natin ang magiging kalagayan ng ating pamilya at mga mahal sa buhay, dapat ay mas lalong magtulungan tayo. Magkaisa at magbayanihan tayo para sa ikabubuti ng bawat Filipino,” he added.
Key government officials invited in the hearing took the opportunity to communicate to the public the precautionary measures already in place to protect Filipinos from the spread of the virus.
In his opening statement, Go also assured the public that the government has been on top of the situation and is committed to assist Filipinos and the rest of the world in laying down measures to mitigate the impact of the 2019-nCov ARD on the worldwide community.
“Since day 1, the whole Duterte Administration has said that it has been on top of the situation and is doing everything it can to address the issue. The President, and even a key official from the World Health Organization, have commended the efforts of this government in responding to this worldwide health concern,” Go, who is chair of the Committee on Health, said.
“Gayunpaman, gamitin natin ang pagkakataong ito para makinig at makatulong. Hindi naman po basta-basta lang ang pag-decide sa mga ganitong klase ng problema. Kailangan masusi ang pag-aaral at evidence-based po ang ating mga desisyon,” he added.
World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, affirmed the senator’s statements, lauding the government for its efforts and response to the disease.
“WHO lauds PH government for its efforts and response on the spread of novel coronavirus, cites travel ban was announced after WHO’s declaration that the deadly virus is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” he said.
The WHO representative also reissued its plea to the public to remain calm even as the novel coronavirus threat persists.
Seeking to further enlighten the public, Go posed questions to the government officials and experts regarding the nature of the disease, severity of the problem, its impact on the country including the economy, and the best way forward for the government to mitigate its effects.
The first to address Go’s questions, Department of Health (DOH) Francisco Duque III gave updates on the novel coronavirus in the Philippines.
“80 patients are under investigation in the Philippines, 67 are currently admitted and isolated, 10 discharged under straight monitoring,” Duque said during his presentation. The secretary cited that the fatality rate of 2019-nCoV ARD is much less than SARS and MERS-CoV but it is more easily transmissible.
Duque also clarified the mode of transmission of the disease, saying “Ang ating pinaka-available na info ay coronavirus can survive and stay for as long as ten hours on inanimate objects like keyboards, tables, and fomites.”
DOH also mentioned that President Duterte has approved the budget needed for the procurement of personnel protective equipment for around 5,000 workers who will need them amid the threats of the 2019-nCoV ARD.
As for the economic impacts of the disease, Department of Finance (DOF) Carlos Dominguez III said that the economic costs of the infection on the economy will most likely be centered on the tourism sector. That said, the secretary also said that “it’s too early to estimate the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.”
To counter the identified economic impacts, Dominguez said that the Department of Tourism will further strengthen the promotion of local destinations.
While these developments may slightly restrain economic expansion, Dominguez stated that the country is standing by DOF’s Gross Domestic Product growth projection at 6.5-7.5 percent for 2020.
Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also gave updates on the President’s directives amid the threats of the 2019-nCoV ARD.
“President Rodrigo Duterte has expanded the travel ban to include travelers to and from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau amid the threat of the novel coronavirus,” Medialdea said, adding that President Duterte “has also ordered the establishment of repatriation and quarantine facility for novel coronavirus.”
Medialdea also mentioned that the establishment of quarantine facilities is still being studied.
In his statement, Go expressed his trust and confidence in the health officials, saying “I know that you are all working double time to address this current threat. Not only those who are present here today, but (all) health workers and practitioners who sacrificed their time and their own lives to serve their country and protect fellow Filipinos.”
Further, he expressed his appreciation to the frontliners of the government who are first to respond to initial complaints and criticisms against the government. He also reminded local governments regarding their duties and responsibilities in combating the disease.
The senator also hit back against critics who continue to spread false information with the view of misleading the public and causing widespread panic.
“Yung mga panay dada naman diyan para lang makapagsalita, mga bashers na sumasakay sa sitwasyon para sa pansariling interes, mga taong gusto lang magdulot ng panic, at mga nagpapakalat ng fake news, kayo ang dapat i-quarantine para hindi kayo makahawa,” he said.
Go urged the public to cooperate with the government and help address the issue, adding that now is the right time for the nation to unite.
“This is a very emotional issue for all of us, but I appeal to everyone for your cooperation. We have our officials here and our health experts to provide us with answers. We are doing this because we care for your families, our country, and the worldwide community,” he added.
Ending his statement, Go reminded the public that the President will always prioritize the health and welfare of Filipinos.
“Alalahanin niyo rin po na inuuna ni Pangulong Duterte at ng gobyernong ito ang kapakanan, interes at kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino. Bilang siya ang tumatayong ama nating lahat, concerned po siya sa kapakanan ng kanyang mga anak,” he said.
“Nakikinig ang President sa hinaing ninyo pero ang desisyon niya ay base na rin sa kung ano ang tama at kung ano ang makakabuti sa pangkalahatan. Binabalanse niya lahat. That is why we elected one leader. We chose one leader to decide and to lead our country especially in these trying times,” he added. (senate.gov.ph)