DOH issues gag order to hospitals on NCoV

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol on Friday, Jan. 31, has issued a gag order to all public and private health units and hospitals across the region not to issue statements or updates regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019 nCov) acute respiratory disease (ARD) outbreak following the spread of fake news that triggered a public scare in Albay and Camarines Norte provinces.

Dr. Ernie Vera, DOH regional director said that only the department’s regional offices have the sole authority to issue advisories and updates on nCoV based from the order of their central office.

Vera said as a matter of protocol only the department is allowed to issue nCoV updates and statements to the public via the media.

He said the health protocol also directs provincial, city and municipal health units including public and private hospitals and clinics to submit immediately a health situation report involving incidence of nCoV events that might occur in their respective areas.

“Any news about nCoV should come from us (DOH). This procedure would allow us to respond effectively and clear thing efficiently,” he said.

Vera said the reports that circulated on Jan. 29 citing that several Chinese nationals who were allegedly afflicted with nCoV symptoms were fake news as they (DOH) have not received validated reports from health authorities in Albay and Camarines Norte.

He said an interagency task force would be created composed of representatives from the Health, Transportation, Local Government departments and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

The health official said the task force would field personnel in various airports, ports, terminals, and malls where the public and visitors usually converge.

The group would also be responsible in monitoring the arrivals of people from other regions.

“I will be coordinating with the OCD to discuss and draw up a worst-case scenario plan once this public health emergency takes place in Bicol,” Vera said.

He added that a quarantine facility would also be set up in strategic areas where people would be diagnosed if they have been afflicted by the virus.

The DOH also ordered hospitals not to refuse suspected nCoV patients or person under investigation (PUI). Those found violating the directive would face stiff sanctions, he said.