The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Saturday asked the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease to a brief members of Congress on the declaration of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over critical areas.
‘’Let us know how Congress can help. This does not have to be public hearings, so we prevent fears of politicizing the response. We just want to help,’’ Albay Representative Joey Salceda, committee chairman, said.
Salceda reminded IATF that the Senate and the House of Representatives allowed it to perform even duties commonly performed by the Congress.
‘’It is fair to require them to at least let us know what they are doing with the powers we delegated,’’ he pointed out.
The congressman said he continues to work with President Duterte’s economic team to find revenue sources or financing that we Congress could tap to fund the country’s COVID-19 response.
‘’We will also see what can be done to preserve or expand our healthcare capacity to handle the ongoing surge in cases. We may be forced by the situation to enact not a stimulus but a lifeline measure to feed our people. I welcome the DBM’s (Department of Budget and Management’s) effort to look for funds for direct relief,’’ he said.
‘’At this point in the pandemic, lockdowns should only be implemented if they will truly make a dent on the number of cases. Lockdowns that paralyze livelihoods should come with the guarantee that those who will suffer greatly for them will be fed and sheltered by government. So, we have to make this work,’’ he said.
Salceda said he welcomes the IATF recommendation to submit sources of funding for targeted subsidies during the lockdown.
The lockdown, he said, would only be worth it if the break is used to expand health care capacity.
‘’As we recommended from the very start, we may need to shift some ventilators from less densely populated areas with few cases to more critical areas like NCR (National Capital Region). Every healthcare worker who needs to go to work during ECQ should get some form of hazard pay soon – not subject to bureaucratic processing months after. We need to complete administering the vaccine supplies available,’’ he pointed out.
He also cited the need to mobilize telemedicine facilities for non-hospitalized COVID-19 cases, non-COVID cases, and for mental health.
‘’Having remote facilities to help non-severe COVID-19 patients treat themselves and their families will be extremely important in preserving whatever capacity we have left for the most severe COVID-19 cases,’’ he said.
Salceda said the uncertainty over COVID-19 is also taking a toll on people’s psychosocial health.
‘’I urge the government to convene the media, the private sector, and the mental healthcare sector to mobilize an appropriate and coordinated response to cater to mental health needs during the pandemic,’’ he said.
On transport, Salceda said he is against total closure. ‘’As we have seen, transport supply is the best way to ensure social distancing in our transport systems,’’ he pointed out.
‘’What we see from international experience is that this may be the last big wave before an ambitious vaccination plan prevents new large-scale surges. So, vaccination is key. We must also share and adopt best practices on treatment. This is crucial now and will be key to a post-pandemic normal,’’ he added.