Former health chiefs, experts propose policy for dealing with COVID-19

Bonz Magsambol
Former health chiefs, experts propose policy for dealing with COVID-19

The 4 recommendations in the policy plan deal with mass testing, protection of health workers, preventive measures post-lockdown, and better-prepared local governments

MANILA, Philippines – Three months since the Philippines recorded its first case of coronavirus infection, former health secretaries, experts, and the Senate’s former health committee chairperson proposed on Friday, April 24, policy plan for containing the novel coronavirus. 

On Friday morning, Malacañang announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the extension of the lockdown in many areas in Luzon until May 15. To remain under enhanced community quarantine would be Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region III), Calabarzon (Region IV-A), and several provinces.

As of Friday, the virus has killed 477 people in the country and infected over 7,000 persons. Globally, over 2.7 million people contracted the virus, with almost 200,000 deaths. 

The proposed policy plan has 4 points. It is authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros, former chair of the Senate health committee; former health secretaries by Dr Jaime Galvez-Tan, Dr Esperanza Cabral, and Dr Manuel Dayrit; Dr Eddie Dorotan, former mayor of Irosin, Sorsogon, and now executive director of Galing Pook; Dr Vicente Belizario Jr, executive director of the National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila; and Dr Dennis Batangan, health policy and financial specialist. 

The following are their recommendations:


1. Better and expanded capacity for mass testing and detection

According to the group, the government should strengthen the country’s testing capacity using the “best available and scientifically evaluated resources, guided by clear protocols.”

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which is under the Department of Health, should share with the University of the Philippines Manila’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) the biosafety certification of laboratories capable of performing real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

UP Manila NIH has a similar capability so it could also do laboratory certification and evaluation. 


2. Protection of health care workers on-site and off-site

The group said that the government should do more than just provide health workers with personal protective equipment, adequate compensation, training, and ensuring that they are not discriminated against. 

The government must hire more personnel so that work shifts are more conducive to occupational safety and health. They also need to provide medical frontliners on-site or near-work accommodations, and immune- boosters like anti-oxidants (melatonin), minerals (zinc), pro-biotics, pre-biotins, and vitamins. 

As of April 22, a total of 1,062 health workers, including 422 doctors, had been infected with the novel coronavirus. Of this number, 26 have died, 19 whom are doctors. 


3. Well-established preventive and protective measures at the workplace in a modified quarantine scenario, as well as a COVID-19 responsive health care system

According to the group, the government should be ready with the post-lockdown scenario, especially for workers. 


4. COVID-19 ready local government units

The group said real-time data on the spread of the novel coronavirus could aid local government units in their decision-making.

“It must be provided both at the national and regional levels, and cascaded down to them right on schedule, without bureaucratic delay,” the group added. 

The full 4-point policy recommendation can be accessed below:




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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.