By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
Party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong has urged the national government to start putting together standard protocols and best practices in dealing with disease outbreaks and even possible biohazard emergencies following the entry of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) in the country.
“Had there been established protocols and command-and-control structure, a quicker response especially in terms of handling potential carriers would have been possible,” said Ong.
Ong made the remarks after the Department of Health on Sunday announced the second case of nCOV in the country which is also the first reported death of a patient outside mainland China.
Ong scored the government’s response on the nCoV outbreak, describing it as “chaotic” since the command-and-control mechanism “was not quickly established thereby causing delays in the implementation of counter-measures especially in the country’s ports and airports.”
The chaotic response according to Ong “has also contributed a lot in the ensuing public panic,” that was primarily caused by the surge of fake news and exaggerated information that is spreading through social media and other information platforms.
He stressed that while the government has been very active in conducting earthquake drills and has already managed to set-up response protocols even at the level of local government units (LGUs), there is no system that is in place in the event of disease outbreaks and biohazard emergencies.
“Naka-focus ang mga drills sa mga lindol pero wala talaga tayong preparasyon pagdating sa pagkalat ng mga nakamamatay na mga sakit gaya ng NCoV,” said Ong.
Ong added that the experience with the NCoV should serve as a wake-up call and prompt the creation of an established protocol that is proactive and can be activated automatically at the slightest hint of a disease outbreak.
“Imagine, even days after the disease was detected to have come from Wuhan province of China, a planeful of Wuhan tourists still managed to get through our border,” he said.
Ong said that it is best that the government must now create a permanent task force which would serve as the government’s command-and-control and the country’s “first and last line of defense” in the event of a disease outbreak.
“The protocol for medical emergencies like the NCoV case is different. Identification and tracking down possible carriers can be very difficult if we do not have an established system , starting from border control to the actual surveillance of all other possible carriers,” said Ong.