Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año on Saturday ordered all local government executives to adopt stringent measures to intensify the information campaign on the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCOV) and report possible contamination in their respective areas.
In Memorandum Circular 2020-018, Año cited a provision in the Constitution and the Local Government Code which provides that local government units (LGUs) are in charge of the promotion of health and safety within their jurisdictions. As such, they must take the lead in the prevention and control of the coronavirus at the local level, he said.
The order came after the Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed the first nCOV patient in the Philippines, prompting government agencies and the private sector to adopt precautionary measures to prevent contagion.
"We need to be preventive now that there is a confirmed 2019 nCOV case in the country. Our governors, city and municipal mayors and DILG regional directors must ensure that the coronavirus will not thrive in their backyards,” Año said.
On Wednesday, the DOH reported that a 38-year old Chinese woman who traveled from Wuhan, China, the origin of the virus, has been infected with the nCOV and is currently quarantined at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
The DOH said that nCOV symptoms include cough and colds, fever, difficulty in breathing, and shortness of breath, which can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney problems, and even death.
In the directive, Año said there was a growing concern over the outbreak of the coronavirus around the world. Unless properly addressed, he said, the crisis it created might have adverse impact on business productivity, tourism, and mobility of people, and could even lead to death.
“The lack of information or misinformation about the coronavirus engenders paranoia where coronavirus suspects, their next of kin, neighborhood, or community may be ostracized by the public at large,” Año said. “In extreme situations, lack of information or disinformation on coronavirus may even lead to social unrest in a community,” he added.
Año said local chief executives must consult local health officers on the guidelines and protocol on safety measures, prevention, and control of the virus in their localities. They should also disseminate information materials such as flyers, brochures, posters and put up billboards about the virus, and tap the local media in conveying this message, he added.
Año further said local executives must coordinate with the local police and health authorities to protect suspected cases and their next of kin, and if necessary, to put up checkpoints.
They should also coordinate with the Local Price Coordinating Council, monitor prices of medicines and preventive gadgets, and file charges against unscrupulous businessmen who resort to hoarding and overpricing, he said.
At the same time, Año ordered barangay officials to intensity a cleanup drive by properly disposing of garbage and cleaning up the streets and waterways. He said village or barangay officials should also be vigilant in monitoring residents showing symptoms of the disease by immediately reporting them to health authorities.