A Senate bill, aimed at giving the Department of Health (DOH) power to lock down infected areas, suspend classes, and work stoppage, among other measures, during times of public health emergencies has been filed by Senator Francis Tolentino.
According to Tolentino, Senate Bill 1408 or the Health Emergency Lockdown Act will strengthen the country’s capacity to detect and contain infectious diseases amid the increase in the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the country.
“Just as how viruses are incessantly changing due to genetic mutation, we must adapt and change our DNA on how we combat infectious diseases,” he said.
Tolentino said, under the present law, the Bureau of Quarantine is authorized to conduct examinations of incoming and outgoing vessels and aircrafts, cargoes, passengers, crews, and all personal effects at ports of entry and exit in the country.
Tolentino said the bill seeks to expand this power by including within its jurisdiction the examination of all people in infected areas, not only of the travelers and the crew in the ports or airports.
“This is so we can contain the spread of infectious diseases wherever these may have occurred and not just limited to those who traveled. Sa panahon ngayon, kelangan natin palakasin ang kakayahan ng DOH para agad nilang maiwasan ang pagkalat ng sakit at matugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga taong maysakit, kung saan man sila naroroon,” Tolentino stressed.
The Senator said the bill further empowers DOH to designate the hospitals to be used as facilities for referral of persons under investigation.
It also authorizes the agency to establish quarantine centers in addition to quarantine stations managed by the Bureau of Quarantine.
The senator said the proposed measure also enhances the role of the local government units in DOH’s fight against the spread of the infectious diseases by including the Interior and Local Government secretary in the formulation of rules and regulations for the prevention of public health emergencies of international concern.
“By ourselves, we cannot hope to fight against the spread of infectious diseases but together, we can achieve more to minimize the contagion, lower its cases, and ultimately, ensure the health of the Filipino people,” said Tolentino, chairman of the Senate committee on local government.
Albay Representative Joey Salceda earlier suggested a one week lockdown of Metro Manila to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
During the lockdown, Salceda said the following measures should be observed: suspension of classes, work stoppage, no bus trips, no domestic flights, and closure of South Luzon Expressway and North Luzon and Expressway and railways.
To date, there are already 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country./Stacy Ang