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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, January 30, 2020
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Late last year the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, the John Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Nuclear Threat Initiative released their first Global Health Security Index which revealed the chilling reality that no country in the world is “fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics.”

The GHS Index placed the Philippines an above-averaged 53 rd out of a total 195 nations included in the study. However, our country also scored zero in a total of five health security indicators.

These failing grades come despite “health security” placing second in the government’s 12-point agenda in the country’s national security policy for 2017 through 2022. The document says that the government shall endeavor to prevent “the effects of infectious diseases as well as interdicting illegal and hazardous agents.”

Groups have already been labeling the healthcare situation in the country as in crisis amid the underfunding of the Department of Health for 2020 on top of outbreaks of infectious diseases like polio and African swine fever. These worries regarding our country’s ability to deal with epidemics and pandemics now deepen as the globe gears for dealing with the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that started in China and has already killed 132 and infected nearly 6,000 people.

There are currently no confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines. The Department of Health is monitoring 24 persons with symptoms of respiratory illness and travel history to Wuhan, China. Until testing for the coronavirus is made available in the Philippines, there is no way of expeditiously determining with finality if our country that had until recently been welcoming travelers from China’s most affected areas has somehow remained free of the virus that has already managed to reach more than 17 countries.

Our government claims to be on top of the situation and appeals for calm amid the growing panic as the virus’ infection rate and death toll surges in China. The one thing that could help calm down worried Filipinos is accurate and timely information regarding the situation. Aside from securing our borders and enhancing our quarantine protocols, moving heaven and earth to acquire the capability to expeditiously test suspected patients for 2019-nCoV should be a priority.

With zero confirmed 2019-nCoV infections in the country so far, our government could prove the results of the GHS Index wrong. Hopefully the people in charge can keep this up, even after we somehow acquire the critical capability of performing the tests that can confirm or deny the suspected cases in our country without having to send for tests abroad.*


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