Senator Poe wants mobile text alerts on COVID-19 to keep public informed

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Senator Grace Poe has urged health and civil defense authorities to send the public free mobile alerts on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the country to ease widespread fears and help citizens make informed choices.

Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said in a resolution that the text alerts should at least contain the regularly updated summary of confirmed cases, the affected areas of recent cases for the purpose of contact tracing and a 24/7 hotline to the Department of Health (DOH) to report suspected cases.

The mobile alerts, in coordination with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, must also include relevant information on COVID-19, such as measures for preventing the spread of the virus, its known symptoms and when to seek medical attention.

“The initial step to contain a virus is to make information on it viral through all available means,” Poe stated. “Improving the spread of information will help counter inaccurate reports and prevent mass hysteria,” she added.

Poe pointed out that information on the potentially deadly virus can be further strengthened through the use of mobile text alerts under Republic Act No. 10639 or the “The Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act,” which she co-authored.

Under the law, mobile phone service providers are mandated to send out at regular intervals warnings that consist of up-to-date information from relevant agencies in the event of a calamity. The alerts must include contact information of local government units and other agencies required to respond to the situation.

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a disaster or a calamity under the applicable laws, especially after it was declared a health emergency by the WHO and the President, respectively,” she said.

Mobile text alerts will also ensure that the public receives accurate and properly vetted information on the outbreak, she added.

Poe’s resolution comes on the heels of an announcement by the DOH confirming 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the largest one-day surge recorded in the country so far.

The spike in the number of infections in a span of a few days compelled local governments to suspend schools and several lawmakers to encourage companies and employers to allow their workers to work from home.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a public health emergency a day after the DOH confirmed the country’s first case of local transmission. So far, there are 24 confirmed cases of the virus in the country. Worldwide, it has affected more than 80,000 people and killed 3,100.

As primary sponsor of Republic Act 10639, Poe has been advocating for the use of text messaging to alert Filipinos of impending danger in times of calamities. “One text alert can save thousands of lives. This prompt warning is indispensable in protecting our people,” she earlier stated./Stacy Ang

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