Press Release
July 7, 2020

Villanueva: Lack of active disease surveillance contributes to surge in COVID-19 cases

The lack of an epidemiological surveillance to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in real-time is a clear indication of how health authorities are mishandling the pandemic response, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, expressed alarm over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, saying that the continued surge would ultimately prove disastrous to efforts of the government 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," Villanueva said in a statement.

"Kulang na po ang ginagawang pag-report ng mga numero araw-araw at ang pagsita sa mga pasaway. Dapat inaalam na po kung saan ang mga hotspot, at magsagawa ng sapat na random testing upang malaman kung gaano kalawak ng pagkalat ng sakit," Villanueva said. "Mas mapanganib po ang ginagawa nating sistema na walang active monitoring. Nagugulat na lang po tayo na kalat na ang COVID sa ilang lugar. Kailangan po natin maging proactive at maprotektahan ang kalusugan ng ating mga manggagawa. Ang active surveillance sa mga komunidad, opisina at lugar-paggawa ang kailangan natin upang maprotektahan ang mga mamamayan."

He explained that epidemiological monitoring and surveillance gives authorities a clear picture of the situation on the ground, allowing them to deploy resources and tools to prevent the spread of the disease.

Efforts of the government to contain the disease could be described as passive surveillance, which the World Bank describes as "a system by which a health jurisdiction receives reports submitted from hospitals, clinics, public health units, or other sources."

While considered as an "inexpensive strategy to cover large areas," passive surveillance could lead to discrepancies and delays in data, the lawmaker said citing the multilateral lender's 2006 publication titled "Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries."

Instead of passive surveillance, Villanueva 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 requires more staffing, which should be beneficial for displaced workers, he pointed out.

"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 maxed out. At the same time, we need to restore the confidence of industries so they can resume operations and employ our workers back," the lawmaker added. "As we have said before, the efforts of our workers will jumpstart our economy."

The government announced that COVID-19 cases reached 46,333, with 2,099 reported on Monday.

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