Lawmakers welcomed Thursday the Duterte government’s creation of a technical working group (TWG) that would focus on the new COVID-19 variants.
House Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Michael Defensor lauded the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to form a panel that would strengthen the country’s readiness against the new COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom.
“This is a welcome development. We have to face this new variant immediately, scientifically, and effectively! We have to stop the variant from reaching our shores,” Rodriguez said in a Viber message.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had earlier announced that IATF has set up a TWG on new COVID-19 variants that will be led by Department of Health (DoH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire. The TWG will be co-chaired by Executive Director Jaime Montoya of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, he bared.
"I think it’s good that we’re preparing for such eventuality. The studies and experience of other countries which have confronted the new variant will be an invaluable contribution on our efforts,” Defensor said in a separate Viber message.
He cited the pressing need for the government to establish and strictly implement protocols to ensure that the Philippines will be spared from the mutated COVID-19 virus.
"There is no fool-proof prevention mechanism to stop the new variant from entering the country but we should be able to establish protocols to deter such,” Defensor said.
"SOPs should also be strictly implemented to stop its spread. Travel protocols from abroad are key to this undertaking,” he added.
Sitting as panel members are Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) Director Dr. Celia Carlos; Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-dela Paz, executive director of University of the Philippines-Manila National Institutes of Health; Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, Dr. Marissa Alejandria, and Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana of the Department of Health-Technical Advisory Group (DoH-TAG); Dr. Cynthia Saloma of the University of the Philippines- Philippine Genome Center; and Dr. John Wong of Epimetrics Inc.
The TWG is tasked to determine as to whether the new variant, which is believed to be more infectious, has reached the country.