Press Release
November 30, 2023

Bong Go urges Filipinos to be vigilant amid rising flu cases; encourages voluntary wearing of masks for protection

As the country continues to manage a significant number of flu-like cases, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go stresses the importance of maintaining vigilance and complying with health protocols, including the voluntary use of face masks whenever possible.

In an interview on Thursday, November 30, after attending the groundbreaking of the Super Health Center in Malabon City, Go addressed the public's concern about the rising cases in China and its implications for the country.

"Kaya nga po sinabi ko kanina, huwag tayong maging kumpiyansa... Kung hindi naman po sagabal sa parte ninyo, magsuot pa rin tayo ng face mask," said Go.

He encouraged the voluntary use of face masks, saying, "Kung nagawa nating mag-face mask sa dalawang taon, ngayon pa na hindi naman po mandatory."

The Department of Health (DOH) is currently not advising the implementation of border controls in response to the recent surge in respiratory illnesses reported in China. The rise in respiratory cases in Beijing, predominantly among children, has been noticeable since mid-October. Additionally, in November, there have been reports of clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in several children's hospitals in China.

Meanwhile, Go also highlighted the government's efforts to provide accessible healthcare, particularly for early disease detection.

"Nandiyan naman po ang mga Malasakit Centers, mga DOH hospitals, mga government hospitals, even private hospitals. Nandiyan din po ang inyong Super Health Center. Kaya nga po may Super Health Center para diyan na po gagawin ang mga early disease detection," he remarked.

Malasakit Centers bring together representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, DOH, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. These one-stop shops aim to support impoverished patients in reducing their hospital costs to the least possible amount.

Go is the principal author and sponsor of Republic Act No. 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which institutionalized the Malasakit Centers program.

Currently, 159 Malasakit Centers are operational across the country, poised to assist with patients' medical expenses. DOH reported that the Malasakit Center program has already provided aid to around ten million Filipinos.

Meanwhile, Super Health Centers are designed to focus on primary care, consultation, and early detection, further strengthening the country's healthcare sector, especially in grassroots communities.

Through the collective efforts of Go, fellow lawmakers, local government units, and DOH, sufficient funds have been allocated for 307 Super Health Centers in 2022 and 322 Super Health Centers in 2023. DOH, the lead implementing agency, identifies the strategic areas where the centers will be constructed.

"Kaya sa mga kababayan ko, nananawagan po ako bilang chairman ng Committee on Health na mag-ingat po tayo. Pangalagaan natin ang ating kalusugan. At nananawagan din po ako sa DOH to closely monitor itong pagtataas ng kaso ng flu at ng situation po sa ibang bansa. Huwag nating hayaan na magkaproblema po muli tayo, bumalik tayo sa pagsasara ng ating ekonomiya. 'Wag naman po sana," he said.

"Habang bumabalik na po tayo sa dating sigla ng ating ekonomiya, ingat pa rin po tayo. Mas importante sa akin ang kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino. Ang katumbas po ng kalusugan ay buhay po ng bawat isa. So ingat po tayo lahat," added Go.

When asked about reinstating the mandatory wearing of face masks, Go said "Sa ngayon hindi pa naman po siguro. My personal assessment hindi pa naman, pero ingat pa rin. Kaya nga po ine-engganyo ko kayo, bagama't hindi po mandatory ay suot pa rin kayo ng face mask. Natutuwa ako may mga kababayan tayo na nagsusuot pa rin ng face mask. Nandiyan pa rin ang banta ng mga virus kaya huwag tayong maging kumpiyansa."

Furthermore, Go remains committed to help improve the country's healthcare system to be better prepared for future health crises.

"Uunahin ko parati ang ating healthcare system. To improve and invest more sa ating healthcare system. Marami po akong nai-file sa Senado, ito pong Center for Disease Control o National Disease Prevention Management Authority, importante po ito para mas lalong handa tayo parati. Pati ito pong Virology Science and Technology Institute na ating isinusulong," he shared.

Go has filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 195 or the creation of a Center for Disease Control (CDC). If passed into law, CDC will serve as the country's central hub for disease prevention, surveillance, and control, focusing on both infectious and non-communicable diseases.

Another key legislative measure from Go is SBN 196, which seeks to establish a Virology Science and Technology Institute. The institute is envisioned as a center for virology that will enhance the country's capacity to study, detect, and combat emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

"Pwede rin po tayong mag-conduct ng hearing kung kakailanganin po, anytime po ako dyan, kung kailangan natin silang pakinggan, kailangan nating tignan kung ano po ang kanilang plano o preparasyon dito po sa pagtaas ng kaso ng sakit," he said.

"And I'm sure ginagawa naman ng ating DOH ang kanilang trabaho sa Executive kasama ang mga doctor at mga medical frontliners natin," added Go.

On Tuesday, the DOH announced its heightened vigilance against new pathogens amid a rise in influenza-like illnesses across the Philippines. Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag revealed that the country has recorded approximately 190,000 cases of such illnesses this year.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the DOH noted that these cases have begun to stabilize, as indicated by the latest data from ongoing surveillance efforts.

Meanwhile, Go has reiterated his appeal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Health (DOH) to fast-track the release of the Health Emergency Allowances (HEA) still due to healthcare workers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one of the authors and co-sponsors of Republic Act 11712, Go stated that the law provided for continuing benefits and allowances to healthcare workers during public health emergencies. Despite the lifting of the state of public health emergency in July, many healthcare workers have yet to receive their HEA.

"Nananawagan pong muli ako sa ating Department of Health, sa ating DBM kung mayroon pong pondo ang gobyerno, unahin po natin itong mga healthworkers natin."

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