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‘Health authorities mishandling pandemic response:’ Villanueva slams lack of active surveillance over surge in COVID cases

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Senator Joel Villanueva has blamed the government’s lack of epidemiological surveillance in the unprecedented rise of coronavirus infections in the country.

Villanueva said the absence of an epidemiological surveillance to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in real-time is “a clear indication of how health authorities are mishandling the pandemic response.”

“Dapat inaalam na po kung saan ang mga hotspot, at magsagawa ng sapat na random testing upang malaman kung gaano kalawak ng pagkalat ng sakit… . nagugulat na lang po tayo na kalat na ang COVID sa ilang lugar. Kailangan po natin maging proactive at maprotektahan ang kalusugan ng ating mga manggagawa,” said Villanueva.

“Mas mapanganib po ang ginagawa nating sistema na walang active monitoring,” he added.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Labor committee, has expressed alarm over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, saying that the continued surge would ultimately prove disastrous to efforts of the government to restore the economy.

“Business confidence is tied with trust in the health sector management. Industries and productive economic sectors won’t risk resuming operations if there is a strong possibility of another lockdown, which would be disastrous for our economy, and consequently for our workers as well,” said Villanueva.

He stressed that epidemiological monitoring and surveillance gives authorities a clear picture of the situation on the ground, allowing them to deploy resources and tools to prevent the spread of the disease.

According to Villanueva, efforts of the government to contain the disease could be described as passive surveillance, which the World Bank describes as “a system by which a health jurisdiction receives reports submitted from hospitals, clinics, public health units, or other sources.”

Instead of passive surveillance, Villanueva said the government should shift its strategy to active surveillance, where authorities seek out information in communities, and use the data to tailor-fit the response.

“The rising number of cases, especially in the past three days should already be a red flag. We should make the necessary adjustments immediately because we cannot afford another lockdown,” said Villanueva.

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