Philippines placed under state of public health emergency due COVID-19

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President Rodrigo Duterte has put the Philippines under a state of public health emergency to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infections after local disease transmissions have been reported by the authorities.

The health authorities have recorded 7 COVID-19 cases over the weekend, taking the number to 10. Duterte’s order came almost 3 weeks after the Health Department proposed declaring a public health emergency when the first cases came up.

“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 remains in effect until it is lifted or revoked by the President.

With the proclamation of President Duterte, all government agencies and local government units are urged to mobilize the needed resources to “eliminate the threat of COVID-19.”

Effects of the proclamation to the health response

The health secretary is granted authority to call for assistance from the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies in combating the virus’ threat.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday that the President’s declaration clears the way for easier procurement of the medical supplies necessary to contain the virus, as well as access to adequate resources for agencies, including local government units, to respond appropriately to the disease outbreak.

Duque added that the declaration includes government powers to mandate patient quarantine and allows health authorities to provide reports on issues related to COVID-19.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Sunday that Duterte’s move came “after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public.”

The health department increased the country’s alert system to Code Red, Sub-level 1 due to the outbreak. It is intended to serve as a “preemptive call” for authorities and health workers to “prepare for potential increases in suspected and confirmed cases” in the Philippines.

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