PH gov’t now requires public disclosure of coronavirus patients’ identities

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government will now disclose to the public the personal information of patients who tested positive for COVID-19. 

On Sunday, April 12, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases has decided to make it mandatory to publicize the identities of COVID-19 cases to strengthen the country’s contact tracing efforts.

“The IATF adopts the policy of mandatory public disclosure of personal information relating to positive COVID-19 cases to enhance the contact tracing efforts of the government,” Nograles said in a virtual press conference. 

He said that this was finalized under IATF Resolution No. 22, which the body signed on Wednesday, April 8, the start of the Holy Week observation.

This is a 180 degree turn from the IATF’s policy two weeks ago, when the government had directed all health facilities to first get the consent of COVID-19 patients before revealing their identities to the public. 

The IATF is also transferring the responsibility of tracing the individuals with whom COVID-19 patients have made contact – the process known as contact tracing – from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD). The DOH has long been drawing criticisms for the gaps in its contact tracing efforts 

“The OCD in coordination with other agencies and local government units shall herein lead the contact tracing efforts of the government,” Nograles said. 

Both the OCD and DOH are directed to enter into a "data-sharing agreement" for the contact tracing activities, guided by the provisions of Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act. 

The Philippines’ top doctors and lawyers have previously called for the waiver of confidentiality of patients’ medical condition to help the government contain the spread of COVID-19. (READ: Coronavirus patients urged to waive confidentiality: ‘Being diagnosed not a crime, stigma) 

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has dramatically surged in the past weeks, with total number of patients confirmed to have the disease at 4,428 as of Saturday, April 11. Of this number, 247 patients have succumbed to COVID-19, while only 157 have recovered so far.  

The DOH has also switched its categorizations of COVID-19 cases, scrapping the old categories of persons under monitoring (PUMs) and patients under investigation (PUIs) and replacing them with “suspect,” “probable,” and “confirmed” cases. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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