Duterte declares public health emergency

Christina Mendez, Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Duterte declares public health emergency
“Yes the President has approved the recommendation” to declare a state of public health emergency, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told The STAR in a text message.
PCOO / File

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has declared a nationwide state of public health emergency as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country has risen to six, two of whom have been classified as local transmission.

“Yes the President has approved the recommendation” to declare a state of public health emergency, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told The STAR in a text message.

Panelo said the President gave credence to the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH), which earlier yesterday raised the COVID-19 alert level to Code Red sub-level one.

“The said proposal has been raised to the attention of the President, who has agreed to issue such declaration after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public,” Panelo said in a statement sent to Palace reporters in the afternoon.

Earlier yesterday, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go – a long-time special assistant to the President – said the Chief Executive made the decision upon his advice.

“Pursuant to the recommendation of the DOH and my suggestion as chair of the Senate committee on health, President Duterte has agreed to issue a declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency due to the confirmation of local transmission of COVID-19 in our country,” Go said.

Panelo said the declaration came after the DOH confirmed that the wife of the fifth case, a 62-year-old Filipino patient, also tested positive for the virus. Following protocol, Panelo said the DOH subsequently raised the COVID-19 Alert System to Code Red – Sub-level 1.

Such alert level means there is anticipation of “possible sustained community transmission” of the disease.

“DOH wants to clarify that this is a preemptive call to ensure that national and local governments and public and private health care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at a press briefing.

Panelo assured the public that the Office of the President has been in constant communication with the DOH and other key agencies of the government since the emergence of the first COVID-19 case in the country.

He said the public should fully cooperate with concerned government agencies to ensure the safety of the general population.

“We similarly call upon the cooperation of the Filipino people during this health crisis to exercise utmost prudence and exercise judiciousness as we expect all responsible agencies to continue exhausting all possible measures within their mandate to secure the general welfare of the citizenry,” he said.

Sixth case

The DOH also confirmed that the wife of the 5th patient is now in stable condition at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) after contracting the disease from him.

Her husband, 62, was considered the first case of local transmission since he contracted the disease despite not having left the country. He tested positive for the virus last March 5. The couple lives in Cainta.

RITM director Dr. Celia Carlos said the husband is currently in critical condition due to severe pneumonia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.  “We can say that he remains in guarded condition,” Carlos added.

For contracting the virus, his 59-year-old wife is now considered the second case of local transmission and the sixth overall.

Also at RITM is the 4th confirmed case, a 48-year-old Filipino male with history of travel to Japan. He was first seen at St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City in Taguig.

It was not clear if he is the same male – an employee of Deloitte Philippines – that tested positive for COVID-19, as reported by the company yesterday.

“We can confirm that a colleague in our Deloitte Philippines office has tested positive for COVID-19. The colleague is currently in hospital receiving treatment and further tests, and Deloitte is supporting the colleague and family in every way we can,” the firm said yesterday.

“All necessary actions were promptly taken to inform those who might have come into contact with the colleague for the appropriate checks and provide any possible form of support,” Deloitte Philippines said.

“We continue to monitor and manage the COVID-19 situation in order to respond as necessary,” the firm added.

The building where Deloitte’s office is located was reportedly closed last night to carry out disinfection protocols.

Deloitte is a leading provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services around the world.

Health Assistant Secretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said that raising the alert level should not cause the people to panic and go to hospitals unnecessarily. The DOH also said there is no need to suspend classes despite the new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Vice President Leni also appealed for calm. “Let us continue to share the right information to care for ourselves and to stop the spread of this disease. If we all work together, our success will be more certain,” she said.

World Health Organization (WHO) Philippine representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said “we need to be conscious that anybody in Manila or the Philippines who has a respiratory tract infection is not having COVID-19.”

“We want to clearly define who is affected – is there a transmission beyond these two cases that we have confirmed? We need to identify who could be at risk,” he added. -With Cecille Suerte-Felipe, Janvic Mateo, Louella Desiderio, Edith Regalado

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