Villanueva to DOH: Conduct real-time surveillance on COVID-19 spread

Published July 7, 2020, 3:11 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva blamed on Tuesday, July 7, the supposed lack of monitoring by health authorities for the continuous surge of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Villanueva raised alarm over the rising number of coronavirus infections, which he said would be “disastrous” to the government’s efforts to restore the economy.

“Business confidence is tied with trust in the health sector management. Industries and productive economic sectors won’t risk resuming operations if there is a strong possibility of another lockdown, which would be disastrous for our economy, and consequently for our workers as well,” the chair of the Senate labor committee said in a statement.

Villanueva said the increase could have been prevented had the Department of Health (DOH) conducted a real-time surveillance on the spread of COVID-19. The lack of an active epidemiological surveillance was a “clear indication of how health authorities are mishandling the pandemic response”, he lamented.

“Kulang na po ang ginagawang pag-report ng mga numero araw-araw at ang pagsita sa mga pasaway (The daily reporting of figures and calling out of stubborn people are not anymore enough). Dapat inaalam na po kung saan ang mga hotspot, at magsagawa ng sapat na random testing upang malaman kung gaano kalawak ang pagkalat ng sakit (We should now be looking into the hotspots, and conduct enough random testing so that we’ll know the extent of the spread of the disease),” he pointed out.

“Mas mapanganib po ang ginagawa nating sistema na walang active monitoring (This absence of active monitoring is more dangerous). Nagugulat na lang po tayo na kalat na ang COVID sa ilang lugar (We end up being surprised that COVID-19 is already widespread). Kailangan po natin maging proactive at maprotektahan ang kalusugan ng ating mga manggagawa (We need to be proactive to protect the health of our workers),” he continued.

In issuing the appeal, Villanueva cited a World Bank report that passive surveillance, or the system “by which a health jurisdiction receives reports submitted from hospitals, clinics, public health units, or other sources”, could lead to discrepancies and delays in data.

He said the government should shift its strategy to active surveillance, where authorities seek out information in communities, and use the data to tailor-fit the response. 

The strategy would require more staffing, which could be beneficial for displaced workers, he noted.

“Our government should take a good hard look at its current strategy. The rising number of cases, especially in the past three days should already be a red flag. We should make the necessary adjustments immediately because we cannot afford another lockdown,” Villanueva said.

“We have to slow down the spread of the disease because our healthcare system is close to being maximized.  At the same time, we need to restore the confidence of industries so they can resume operations and employ our workers back. As we have said before, the efforts of our workers will jumpstart our economy,” he reiterated.