Gatchalian expresses concern at DOH’s response to COVID-19

By Joseph Pedrajas

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian expressed his frustration at the Department of the Health's (DOH's) late response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, saying they should have taken better actions even before the declaration of the first community transmission.

Gatchalian, in an interview with ANC released on Spotify on Saturday, said that the health department could have taken advantage of the crisis' lull in February, when there was still no local transmission in the country.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian (Rex Gatchalian official Facebook page /  FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian (Rex Gatchalian official Facebook page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

"No matter how many literature you read, it kept on saying three things: 'test, test, test,'" he said.

"The secretary of DOH kept on saying, ang galing nya, na wala pang community transmission (he’s very good, there hasn’t been any community transmission). Should not have taken advantage of that lull? The whole February?" he noted.

Gatchalian questioned the DOH on why it is only after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was imposed when they "came out with the list of FDA-accredited test kits."

"They came out with that during the ECQ. Hindi ba dapat bago mag-ECQ, noong may lull tayo...nilabas na nila yung list na 'yun para naka-preposition na yung kits ng mga LGU ? (Should’t they have come out with the list during the lull so that the test kits would have been prepositioned for the LGUs?)“ he said.

"The LGUs like us, we have the capacity to buy those kits. But it took them what? Parang four days before they came out with the list," Gatchalian added.

Gatchalian also expressed his concern on why it is only recently that the DOH started accrediting laboratories to process the tests.

"Naglabas sila ng FDA-kits, limitado naman yung laboratory na ina-accredit nila. It's only now na nakakakita kami ng mga bagong laboratories (They brought out FDA-kits but the number of laboratories they accredited is limited. It’s only now that we’re seeing new laboratories),” he said.

While aware that the DOH should be "careful" in accrediting laboratories, Gatchalian asked: "Weren't they supposed to do that noong February palang (Weren’t they supposed to do that in February)?”

Gatchalian is one of the many local government unit heads who are racing against time to stem the COVID-19 outbreak in their city.

Social media users have been praising him for his response to the crisis, which includes being the first LGU to conduct localized mass testing, among others.