By Genalyn Kabiling
In the race to quell the spread of the new coronavirus disease, the government is exploring the use of technology to track patients with the infection while complying with cybersecurity and privacy laws.
In his first weekly report to Congress on the implementation of the Bayanihan law, President Duterte disclosed that the Department of Information and Communications (DICT) has provided assistance to the Department of Health (DOH) in “exploring and drafting protocols for digital solutions to track the steps of COVID-19 positive patients.”
The DICT has also moved to “augment the DOH Epidemiology Bureau’s data gathering and disease surveillance and response functions compliant with cybersecurity and privacy laws, rules, and regulations.”
The latest government action comes amid the sharp rise in the cases of coronavirus in the country. As of March 31, the number of cases of infection has reached 2,084, including 88 fatalities.
The President, in his public address Monday late night, announced that the government has mobilized government resources to provide frontline health workers “with everything they require so they can save as many lives as possible.”
Republic Act No. 11469, or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” grants the President additional powers to address the coronavirus pandemic. He is required to submit a weekly report to a joint congressional oversight panel on how the powers have been used.
In the same report to Congress, the President also highlighted the enhancement of the communication dispatch capabilities of the DOH and its hospitals in Metro Manila. The DICT has provided the health department with cellular radios and an emergency radio dispatch system to streamline its operations.
The health department has also been assisted in the design and implementation of the Project Health Alert Watch for Community Emergencies as well as the DOH Call Center Expansion and Telemedicine initiative.
26,000 test kits, 500,000 face masks
From April 4 to 5, there will be a field implementation for 26,000 test kits and distribution to five hospitals that can do the testing.
The new test kits are part of the P53.2 million project funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), according to the President’s report to Congress. The GenAmplifyTM CoronaVirus Disease-2019 rRT-PCR Detection kit is locally developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health and Manila HealthTek Inc.
The DOST, in cooperation with the local government of Taytay and the private sector, has also pursued the production of 5000,000 reusable facial masks as protective wear.
Convert public buildings into health facilities, install prototype tents
The President said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has formed a task force to convert different public buildings and evacuation centers into health facilities and emergency operations centers or food hubs.
Of the 110 evacuation centers to be converted, 19 have been used as health facilities while 15 are used as operations centers.
“It is also looking into the conversion of public buildings and open spaces to establish treatment facilities and isolation centers, and the installation of prototype tents for such purpose,” the President’s report read.