Panelo: No disclosure yet of COVID-19 patients’ details to prevent panic

Published March 10, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Genalyn Kabiling 

More details about the coronavirus patients may be disclosed by the government in the interest of public health if there will be a “dramatic increase” in infection cases, a Palace official said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo (PCOO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo (PCOO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

But for now, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Duterte believed the present situation does not warrant the release of data that might violate a coronavirus patient’s privacy rights.

“Dito sa atin kasi mayroong batas – privacy law. In fact, I raised that kahapon kung puwede nating gawin pero hindi pa—although that is an exemption to the rule. Pero sabi ni Presidente, sa ngayon baka hindi pa natin kailangan (We have a privacy law. In fact, I raised that yesterday if we can do that, although that is an exemption to the rule, but the President said it is not yet needed at this time),” he said in a Palace press briefing about calls to identify the places where the coronavirus patients went.

“Naniniwala siya doon sa ano, na ‘pag may national emergency, puwede iyon. Pero hindi pa raw. Kumbaga, we have not reached that level (He believes that if there will be a national emergency, that maybe allowed but not at this time. In other words, we have not reached that level),” he said.

Asked when public welfare will prevail over privacy rights in terms of releasing information on coronavirus cases, Panelo said: “Ang pagkakasabi ni Presidente, [when] there’s a dramatic increase in cases, medyo may problema na tayo doon (The President said we will have a problem if there’s a dramatic increase in cases).”

‘Degrees’ of crisis

Coronavirus cases have surged in the country in the past few days but the Palace deemed they were fewer than the infections reported in other countries.

“Kung ikukumpara mo naman tayo sa ibang lugar eh sila hundreds eh, tayo wala pang … less than thirty. ‘Di ba sa mga iba, hundreds eh. May thousands na nga eh (If you compare it to other countries, they report hundreds, even thousands. We have less than 30,” Panelo said.

He noted that there are different “degrees” of crisis despite the declaration of a public health emergency in the country over the coronavirus outbreak.

“Sa pananaw ni Presidente at ng DoH eh hindi pa tayo nakakarating doon sa level na kailangan gawin natin iyon (The President and the DOH think that we have not reached the level that we need to do that),” he said.

He added that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would balance the privacy rights of patients and public health interests in reporting information about the coronavirus cases.

Panelo admitted that health authorities wanted to avoid the panic that may be caused by identifying the places visited by the coronavirus patients.

“If you will ask me as a lawyer, we can, pero binabalanse nga nila (but they are balancing it). But they will, I think they will study that. I have already made the suggestion,” he said.

“Binabalanse nila iyong privacy kasi baka ‘pag sinabi mo baka naman lalong mag-create daw ng panic…Baka mag-create na ng panic, maaapektuhan naman iyong establishment (They are trying to balance the privacy [issue] because if you disclose the place, it might cause panic.. It might create panic and the establishment may be affected).”

Sufficient funds, health protocols

The government, meantime, assured the public that it has adequate funds as well as established health protocols to contain the escalating number of cases of coronavirus in the country.

“We have the appropriate protocols for the containment of this disease. The Secretary of the Department of Health has assured us that all the established measures in tracing, treatment, testing, nandoon lahat e (everything is in place),” Panelo said.

He noted that additional medical testing kits are expected to arrive to augment the health department’s supply.

“Pagdating sa pera (When it comes to money), we were assured by the Budget Secretary, we have the necessary funds,” he added.

Stay at home

It will be prudent if people will stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel for the meantime, according to Panelo.

He urged people to postpone any non-essential trips abroad to avoid getting the coronavirus infection.

“As the DOH (Department of Health) says, stay indoors would be the ideal, avoid crowds. If it’s not that important or urgent, then we should stay at home,” he said.

“The prudent thing to do is to reset whatever travels you have in mind if it’s not that important,” he added.

Asked if the Palace would advise the public to travel during the summer vacation, Panelo said,
“That’s for them to decide. But the prudent thing, as DOH says and the World Health Organization, is to stay put.”

Panelo said the nation should brace for the impact of the coronavirus on the tourism industry.

“[The] tourism industry all over the world will be affected, so we have to brace ourselves for that. Whether we like it or not, there will be business losses and we should brace ourselves for that,” he said.

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