MERS-CoV, Health Regulations, and e-Governance

The US National Library of Medicine (NLM) has just released its latest update on the MERS-CoV, ‘Updated Rapid Risk Assessment: Severe Respiratory Disease Associated with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV); Ninth update, 24 April 2014‘.  Per NLM,

This 16-page document is the ninth update (April 24, 2014) about severe respiratory disease associated with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It includes updated information for visitors to and European Union (EU) residents of the Arabian Peninsula, returning travelers to EU/European Economic Area member states, the international health community, and affected countries.

Out of the total 345 cases worldwide, 275 were in Saudi Arabia as were eighty-one of the total 107 deaths.  Philippines had one case (no death).

Geographic distribution of confirmed MERS-CoV cases, worldwide, as of 23 April 2014 (NLM)
Geographic distribution of confirmed MERS-CoV cases, worldwide, as of 23 April 2014 (NLM)

Contract tracing by EU countries, according to the report, “should trace contacts of confirmed MERS-CoV cases on aircrafts according to the guidelines for SARS contact tracing in RAGIDA“.  The acronym stands for ‘risk assessment guidelines for infectious diseases transmitted on aircraft’, available online here.  Further, cabin crew are expected to observe the IATA protocol on Air Transport and Communicable Diseases.

These guidelines and protocols are required from signatory States to the WHO International Health Regulations (2005),

legally-binding agreement provides a new framework for the coordination and management of events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern. Articles 18 and 23 of the IHR 2005 address health measures regarding international air travel, including the necessity for contact tracing (CT) on the arrival or departure of international travellers. In Article 45, the treatment of personal data in the context of contact tracing is regulated.

The mandates and guidance are there, which the GOP has binded itself to.  The DOH, then, should exert more effort in educating and working with the Local Government Units in the management of public health concerns (especially pandemics, which the global community is expecting to happen more frequently).  It scares people watching the agency’s and LGUs’ helpless reactive stance to events (e.g. the circumstances surrounding Philippine-bound passengers of Etihad Airlines) – the message is they’re not credible and when people can’t trust them to protect adds to the panic.

I browsed a few LGU websites but there’s nothing about MERS-CoV (in fact, LGUs’ websites are, on the whole, a disappointment.  Basic public documents as, for example, approved development plans are not posted.  There are LGU Facebook accounts I’ve encountered and I’m appalled at the low level of professionalism these impart.  For those posting scanned expenditure reports, can there be at least an introduction and explanation of sorts to the rows and rows of numbers?  What’s the point of putting up a website when there’s nothing critical in there but selfies of god knows whose faces they belong to?  There’s far more information about beauty pageants and fiestas than critical and useful governance and development data! LGUs can have another website put up for these bikini-clad selfies but please maintain a certain level of professionalism on official websites.).

The country has laws and policies for transparent governance, in EO 265, RA 8792, and of course RA 7160 (the LGU Code) but the way we’re implementing these, it shows, yet again, the propensity toward just the rhetoric.  There’s a PIDS study, e-Government Initiatives of Four Philippine Cities, reporting that the number one hindrance cited by LGUs is “lack of manpower”.  If I were, say, the Mayor of a highly urbanized city and the officer in charge comes to me with this reasoning, I’ll give him or her the real meaning of “lack of…” because manpower is not a valid problem in this country’s overpopulated job market.  Aren’t we all in our jobs to think about how to get the job done?  Besides, the colleges and universities are fighting among themselves getting employers to take in their students into OJT programs. To me, lack of anything as an institution’s official reason recorded on paper is unacceptable. It is a reflection of the kind of management and leadership in that institution.  Besides, it’s not as if this institution is a small town college — it’s the Local Government Unit, vested with all the powers outlined in the Code.

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