Duterte agrees to declare public health emergency

(UPDATED) -- President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to place the country under a State of Public Health Emergency following the confirmation of local Covid-19 transmission, his former aide said Saturday.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, in a text message, said the President will base his declaration on the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and his “suggestion as chair of the Senate committee on health.”

His message was sent out just a couple of hours after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced in a press conference Saturday, March 7, that they will recommend such declaration.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed that the President has agreed to heed the DOH recommendation.

“The said proposal has been raised to the attention of the President who has agreed to issue such declaration after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public,” Panelo said.

In an interview in Davao City Saturday, Go said Duterte planned to meet with the Inter-agency Task on Emerging Infectious Diseases and other government agencies with health-related functions on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Under a State of Public Health Emergency, Go said local chief executives would be allowed to use their emergency funds created under Republic Act 10121 or the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act.

He added that reporting of suspected cases would become mandatory, procurement of necessary health equipment would hasten, and a price freeze would be imposed on health-related items such as face masks.

Go also said the task force would be expanded and local governments would be mandated to fight the disease.

"We need a whole of society and proactive approach in preventing further spreading of the virus," Go said.

Duque had said that the President is expected to issue such a declaration on Monday, March 9, 2020.

”This declaration is a signal to all concerned agencies, local government units and health care providers to be ready to implement planned response measures. We are continuously reminding everyone to practice personal protective measures such as hand hygiene, social distancing, and proper cough etiquette. Avoid unnecessary travel and postpone mass gatherings, as well. It is our individual responsibility to protect ourselves and the people around us. Only through collective action in our communities will we be able to limit the spread of the virus,” Duque read his statement in a press conference Saturday.

The DOH confirmed three new cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the country on Saturday as it raised Code Red sub-level 1.

Code Red, according to Duque, is a preemptive call to ensure that national and local governments and public and private health care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.

The fifth and sixth cases, a couple, are considered cases of local transmission because they have no history of travel.

The fifth case, a 62-year-old Filipino male, is in critical condition at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

He had infected his wife, 59. The couple lives in Cainta, Rizal. Duque said contact tracing is ongoing while household members, who are asymptomatic as of Saturday, are under home quarantine.

The fourth case is a 48-year-old Filipino employee of Deloitte at its Philippine office in the Bonifacio Global City. He has history of travel from Japan.

Both the fourth and sixth cases are considered mild forms of Covid-19.

The first three cases involved Chinese tourists, including one who died. The two others have returned to China.

As of March 6, 2020, there were 46 patients under investigation for (PUI) for Covid-19 in various hospitals across the country. (MVI/SunStar Philippines/With reports from RGL, MAP, JPC/SunStar Davao)