The Department of Health (DOH) has called on the public to respect the privacy of COVID-19 patients after it received a report that lists of people infected with the illness are being shared on social media.
The DOH said that health authorities have the "right to access personal information to enable effective response" as mandated by Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
The law also states that it also requires health authorities to "ensure patient privacy and confidentiality of personal information entrusted to them," the DOH said.
The DOH said that the necessary information should only be shared with concerned public health authorities who are knowledgeable about data privacy.
"We call on the public to refrain from sharing these lists around social media. This is illegal and perpetuates the stigma around COVID-19. Our 'kababayans' (countrymen) are already going through enough as it is, let us not exacerbate their situations," it said.
Any privacy violation, personal data breach, or security incident is punishable in accordance with RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012, the DOH reminded.
The Health department sought the help of the different local government units to protect the privacy of COVID-19 patients and their families.
"We would like to ask for the cooperation of DOH partner agencies, including the local government units, that as part of their mandate to comply with the DOH COVID-19 guidelines on data privacy and protection, they are responsible for protecting and preserving the identities of COVID-19 cases and identified close contacts, and their families so that this does not result in undue discrimination, or physical and emotional harm or distress," the agency said.