By Genalyn Kabiling
The nation must foster “solidarity, empathy and cooperation” to mitigate the threat of the new coronavirus rather than resort to panic and spread fear and misinformation, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.
As the government remained “on top of the situation” to address the latest health concern, Andanar said the public should stay vigilant yet calm given the low fatality rate of the respiratory illness.
“Let us not resort to panic, sow fear-mongering, or spread misinformation,” Andanar said in a statement read by Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Marvin Gatpayat in a regional briefing in Cagayan de Oro City last Tuesday.
“Solidarity, empathy, and cooperation are what we need to successfully take actions that will overcome this health concern,” said Andanar, Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS X) for Northern Mindanao.
Andanar echoed President Duterte’s assurance of government’s readiness to contain the spread of the virus, as well as his caution against Sinophobia, in the meeting attended by the member-agencies of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) Region X.
He said the public should not be afraid of the coronavirus as “everything is well in our country.”
“The fatality rate remains low, and our health officials are closely monitoring those suspected to carry the virus,” he added.
Despite the President’s optimism in overcoming the health concern, Andanar said public servants have been directed to swiftly deliver services to counter the spread of the coronavirus. He said they must likewise “spread truthful, relevant, timely, and non-alarmist information.”
“We call on all agencies from the national and local government to heed the directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Andanar said.
“Let us remain vigilant, and coordinate with local health centers should we observe symptoms associated with the coronavirus. Let’s continue to remain calm and do our jobs well, as we closely monitor such developments and take appropriate actions.”
Government steps up efforts
The President recently held an emergency meeting with Cabinet members, health experts, and other government officials in Malacañang on intensified efforts to combat the spread of the respiratory illness in the country.
The government’s health precautions included the travel restrictions against travelers from China, intensified quarantine and containment measures, and purchase of protective equipment and vehicles for the health department.
According to Andanar, the President has directed Cabinet members to prioritize the protection of Filipinos here and abroad as well as frontline health workers.
To counter misinformation, the PCOO has recently been tasked by the President to step up the information campaign about the new coronavirus and how to avoid it.
The information drive includes hourly public service remainders on state media as well as dissemination of infographic materials and news updates.
PCOO Assistant Secretary JV Arcena said they have activated a “Laging Handa” information program to provide updates on disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts.
The communication group has likewise used traditional media and social media to inform the public about the 2019-nCoV situation, he added.