State of public health emergency declared in PH

By Azer Parrocha

March 9, 2020, 1:15 pm

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a proclamation formally declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines after the health department reported the first known local transmission of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Duterte signed Proclamation 922 on March 8 to “capacitate government agencies and LGUs (local government units) 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.”

The proclamation would also facilitate the implementation of mandatory reporting, intensify government response and measures, and enforce quarantine and disease control prevention measures.

Duterte recognizes that the outbreak of Covid-19 constitutes an emergency that threatens national security which requires a “whole-of-government" response aligned with the Department of Health's (DOH) four-door framework for Covid-19, and the efforts of all concerned government agencies and LGUs. 

Under the proclamation, all government agencies and LGUs are tasked to give full assistance and cooperation and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the Covid-19 threat.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III may seek the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies to provide assistance in addressing the Covid-19 threat, the proclamation read.

All citizens, residents, tourists, and establishment owners are urged to comply with these directives to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.

The state of public health emergency will remain in force and effect until lifted by Duterte.

Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte will be releasing an executive order to strengthen public health response versus Covid-19.

However, he clarified in a radio interview that instead of an executive order, Duterte will be issuing a proclamation.

There are 10 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 41 patients under investigation (PUI) who are currently admitted to hospitals.

Of these confirmed cases, the first known local transmission of the virus is an elderly man who frequented an Islamic prayer hall at the Greenhills Mall.

Some local governments and schools have called off classes to undergo disinfection protocols.

In a Laging Handa press briefing in Malacañang, Duque said he respected the decision of local governments but stressed that he does not see a need to call for a lockdown in Metro Manila.

As of March 8, 2020, there are a total of 105,586 cases of Covid-19 that has spread to 101 countries.

DOH has placed the country under Covid-19 Alert System to Code Red sublevel 1 to prepare national and local governments and the country’s health care providers for possible increases in suspected and confirmed cases of the disease.

Duterte to follow PSG advice

Panelo said Duterte would heed the Presidential Security Group (PSG) when it implements a “no touch” policy on him and the first family to prevent them from contracting the disease.

"He always follows advice of the PSG. Touch is the number one magnet of the virus being spread," he said.

PSG commander Army Col. Jesus Durante said the no touch policy would be among the precautionary measures in place to minimize his exposure to the disease.

PSG would “thoroughly” screen personalities -- including PSG personnel, politicians and dignitaries -- expected to get near the President especially during meetings and events, he said. 

The PSG will also assess whether or not to cancel large crowd gatherings with the President as the guest of honor and speaker for his safety and the safety of attendees, he added.

He said all established health protocols and preventive measures will be in effect to all PSG personnel and the whole Malacañang Complex. (PNA)