Senator Lacson lambastes DOH’s delayed response to COVID-19 pandemic

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The Department of Health (DOH) leadership is now making some adjustments to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) threat, but only now after so much time has been wasted, Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Monday, as he lambasted the health department’s delayed response to the pandemic.

For one, through the private sector’s initiative in coordination with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases and other government agencies, massive rapid testing will start on  April 14, if it is not being done already, Lacson said.

Secondly, contact tracing, hopefully, will now be more efficient with the latest guideline issued by IATF for mandatory disclosure of COVID-19 infected persons for more efficient self-quarantine.

Thirdly, after a long and unnecessary delay, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of test kits – including at least 10 rapid antibody test kits and 23 PCR-based test kits as of April 8.

The delay was amid the willingness of private donors to spend big money to help accelerate mass testing through the use of rapid antibody test kits, and even after we asked the FDA about the usefulness of such rapid test kits as early as our March 24 caucus prior to the Senate’s 18-hour plenary debates to pass Republic Act 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal As One Act) on the same day, with some Cabinet members in attendance.

“What I can’t understand for the life of me is why the DOH keeps issuing circulars that seem to circumvent Sec 4(j) of the Bayanihan Act that provides for some leeway for donated test kits that otherwise have already been in use in other jurisdictions, by mandating the turnover of all donations to DOH but would not allow its use,” said Lacson.

Lacson said this is compounded by a requirement for accreditation that includes, among others, an application by the manufacturer or distributor of such health products.

“Since these are donations and therefore not for business purposes, how in the world will these donors look for local distributors, or look for the manufacturer to file for an application? Sec 4(j) specifically states that all donated health products need only a certification from the regulatory agency/ies of the country that allows the use of such health products for FDA to approve the same,” said Lacson.

“On the other hand, there is no saying that Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. is not doing a good job as chief implementer of the government’s national response against COVID-19, by playing catch-up for the inadequacies of some people,” Lacson said./Stacy Ang

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