Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases needed to “address the health protocols and programs being done by the Department of Health (DOH).”
“Something is very wrong! I think it’s the delay in actions and responses. That includes contact tracing and aggressive research on medications,” Sotto said in a statement on Sunday.
Senators expressed concern over the recent surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, with several lawmakers saying the government needs to do more to contain the spread of the virus.
This was after data from the World Health Organization showed that in nearly two weeks, the Philippines had the fastest rise in COVID-19 cases in the Western Pacific region.
WHO data showed that while the Philippines ranked third behind China and Singapore in terms of number of cases.
The Philippines, however, also added almost 10,000 new cases in just 2 weeks from June 14 to June 28. This was in contrast to Singapore, which added less than 3,000 new cases during the period.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said that the Department of Health has been “mishandling” the crisis.
“That said, in spite of the DOH’s shortcomings, further worsened by the president’s almost blanket trust and confidence in [Health Secretary Francisco] Duque, the latest of which was the ridiculous theory that he is incapable of cheating on government funds since he is too wealthy to even think of further enriching himself, still, I would like to think that the IATF is performing fairly well,” he added.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said in the past weeks the government lost focus on its primary goal of containing the virus.
“We reopened the economy drastically, even for the non-essential sectors like POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations). We did not prohibit malls from extending their operating hours. We terminated social assistance, sent people back to work even without sufficient modes of public transportation,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“There was no clear guidance on surveillance and epidemiological monitoring,” he added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said WHO data showed that the Philippines had “the worst pandemic response.”
“This should be embarrassing to our neighbors, but it is more embarrassing to our fellow countrymen, to the doctors, nurses, and medical technologists, and to all who have sacrificed and are sacrificing their lives to fight this disease. To all who have complied and are complying with the various and oftentimes confusing guidelines, like work resumption but without public transport,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Senator Bong Go meanwhile said the government needs to do better with its COVID-19 strategy.
“Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Health, patuloy ang aking panawagan na pagbutihin pa lalo ng gobyerno ang kanyang Test, Trace and Treat strategy. Habang tumataas ang kaso ng COVID-19, mas tumataas rin dapat ang quarantine, contact tracing, at necessary treatment capabilities natin (As chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I continue to call on the government to further improve its Test, Trace and Treat strategy. With the rising the number of COVID-19 cases, our capabilities to quarantine, contact-trace and provide necessary treatment should also rise.),” Go said.
Go called for the immediate passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill.
The DOH has defended its response to the pandemic./Stacy Ang