DOH chief grilled for slow contact tracing of nCov patient's co-passengers
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the Senate that only 17% of the 331 co-passengers of the Chinese couple who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have been contacted.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo

DOH chief grilled for slow contact tracing of nCov patient's co-passengers

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - February 4, 2020 - 3:16pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senators criticized the leadership of the Department of Health for failing to contact the rest of the co-passengers of a Chinese couple confirmed to have the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease or 2019-nCoV ARD.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the Senate hearing that only 17% of the 331 airplane passengers who interacted with the nCoV carriers have been contacted.

Duque claimed that Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are not sharing the contact details of the passengers due to confidentiality.

Philippine Airlines denied the claims of Duque that it refuses to give the names of the passengers.

PAL Vice President for Security Gen. Cesar Ronnie Ordoyo told the Senate panel that in tandem with Cebu Pacific, the airlines have given the passenger lists to the Bureau of Epidemiology.

"As a matter of fact, we have given them the list as required because as per protocol, it would be the Bureau of Quarantine who should be following this up," Ordoyo told the Senate panel.

When asked who is in charge of contact tracing, Duque pointed his finger at DOH epidemiology bureau Ferchito Avelino for supposed lack of transparency.

"I don't know the steps, the specific measures of how this should be done and I hope that you give me a chance to look into this and I'll have it investigated," Duque told the Senate panel.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, meanwhile, suggested that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Civil Aeronautics Board should be in charge of contact tracing.

"What we have here is a glaring example of a failure to communicate," Tugade told the Senate panel.

Tugade added that the DOH does not have ascendancy nor power to force compliance among airlines to conduct contact tracing.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, blamed the DOH leadership for the low rate of contacted co-passengers of the nCoV patients in the Philippines.

"I beg to disagree that the secretary of Health is pointing his finger at his underling when there is only 17% of those passengers have been contacted since this issue erupted," Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan said the issue was not just a mere failure of communication but a failure of leadership on the Health department.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson agreed with Pangilinan's sentiments, pointing out that it should have been the initiative of the DOH to contact the passengers.

"What we have here, as Sen. Pangilinan mentioned, is a failure of leadership... The DOH should be on top of the situation, not the CAAP, not the [Bureau of Immigration], or the [Department of Transportation] but the DOH," Lacson said.

Lacson stressed that the DOH should not be blaming other agencies as the 2019-nCoV threat is a health issue.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 7, 2021 - 10:52am

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

March 7, 2021 - 10:52am

South Korea and the United States will conduct their annual military training this week but the drills will be smaller because of COVID-19, Seoul says.

The nine-day exercise that begins Monday is still likely to infuriate the North, which has long considered them rehearsals for invasion.

"The upcoming annual training is a computer-simulated command post exercise that is strictly defensive in nature," the Joint Chiefs of Staff says in a statement, adding they went ahead with plans after considering the pandemic. — AFP

March 6, 2021 - 11:37am

The US Senate broke a logjam late Friday when a centrist Democrat compromised on a key provision of the Covid relief package, setting the $1.9 trillion bill on a likely path to passage.

Democrats had struggled to keep Senator Joe Manchin's support for expanded unemployment aid in the sprawling measure, and he threatened to side with Republicans in the evenly divided chamber.

But the deal, which reduced the jobless benefits, kept Manchin on board and allowed action to resume in the Senate as it navigates toward passage of President Joe Biden's top legislative priority sometime this weekend.

Manchin, keen on more fiscal restraint than was evident in the Biden package, was flexing his political muscle, balking at an amendment that would increase weekly additional unemployment benefits from $300 to $400, and extending them through August. — AFP

March 5, 2021 - 4:02pm

The Philippines records 3,045 new coronavirus infections Friday—the highest single day rise since mid-October, pushing the country’s caseload to 587,704.

The department also records 178 new recoveries and 19 more fatalities, bringing the total of survivors to 535,207 and the death toll to 12,423, respectively.

Active cases in the country are at 40,074 or 6.8% of the total cases.

March 5, 2021 - 12:49pm

The World Health Organization has scrapped plans for a team that visited Wuhan, China to probe the origins of the coronavirus pandemic to issue an interim report, The Wall Street Journal reports late Thursday.

Wuhan is the city where the pandemic is believed to have originated in late 2019.

The WHO team returned recently from its visit there saying it had no clear finding on the genesis of the virus, amid tensions between the US and China on what caused the once-in-a century global health crisis. —  AFP

March 5, 2021 - 11:43am

The United States records fewer than 40,000 new cases of Covid-19 in one day for the first time in five months on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University pandemic tracker.

This number peaked at nearly 300,000 new cases on January 8 in the country hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than half a million fatalities.

But now it is back down to the levels of before Thanksgiving and Christmas, when holiday travel and gatherings in defiance of safety warnings were blamed for spreading the virus further in the US. —  AFP

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