Sen. Nancy Binay found the Department of Health‘s response on the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus in the country inadequate and she criticized the agency for what she observed as its slowpoke announcements on the cases.
After nearly a month of not detecting any new cases, the DOH confirmed two additional cases on March 6. It then declared additional cases over the weekend before doubling the 10 cases to 20 on Monday afternoon.
At the Senate hearing into the impact-risk assessment of COVID-19, Binay shared two issues she observed after additional cases were reported in a span of four days from March 7 to 8.
Binay expressed frustration that she had to learn some of the confirmed cases from private companies and not from the state health agency.
She also criticized the DOH for berating companies who are disclosing confirmed cases when they are just informing the public.
“I think you also have to… dapat bilisan ninyo ‘yung pag-announce, pag-disseminate ng information kasi parang nawawalan ng kumpyansa ‘yung public with the way you handle the dissemination of information about the patients,” Binay said.
She cited the case of Deloitte Philippines, a private multinational consulting firm in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, which confirmed that one of their employees acquired the virus after a recent trip to Japan.
One representative of DOH defended the health agency, saying Duque was conducting press briefings often to keep the public updated.
However, the arrival of new information is too fast for the agency to process and disclose to the public.
Lack of testing kits
Representatives of the health department told the committee that the country’s testing kits are only good for 2,000 tests.
An additional 4,500 extracting kits, which are only good for 2,000 people, are expected to arrive soon. Binay found 2,000 kits for more than 100 million Filipinos in the country too few.
“I don’t want to panic but you’re making me panic. Kasi yung naririnig namin ngayon is parang di niyo pinaghandaan na magkakaroon tayo ng local transmission,” the senator said.
“Mismong si Sec. Duque na ‘yung nagsabi na it’s just a question of when na pagdating. We only have 2,000 testing kits out of 100 million population,” she added.
Binay also tells PCOO to set priorities straight
Aside from DOH, the lawmaker also called on the Presidential Communications and Operations Office to prioritize the Filipinos’ public health interests first over their recent “roadshow in Europe.”
“PCOO and other agencies should step up in elevating the ante in risk communication. They should not waste their time doing roadshows in Europe because they should be focusing on fighting the spread of COVID-19,” Binay said.
She was referring to the February trip to Europe of some of PCOO’s officials to disseminate information about the achievements of the government.
“All engagements in Bosnia, Brussels and Geneva are all part of PCOO’s mandate to deliver and disseminate information relation to policies, programs and achievements of the president and executive branch,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said back then.
Praises for being a politician
Several Filipinos gave her a thumbs up for doing her job well for airing sensible questions at the Senate inquiry.
One Twitter user shared a video of the Senate panel inquiry when Binay was berating the representatives of DOH.
— 𝐌𝐢𝐬𝐬 𝐊𝐫𝐢𝐳𝐳𝐲 (@krizzy_kalerqui) March 9, 2020
“Iba na talaga si Senator Nancy Binay. From one of the most mocked senator to now most Filipinos can look up to. Politics may still be there but still she is doing her sworn duty so well,” one Twitter user said.
Another shared the same sentiment as Binay saying that the frustration may stem from the perceived inaction of the government prior to the local transmission.
“We, too, feel the frustration not because of the virus per se, but because of how passive the government was prior to the spread of COVID-19,” the user said.