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VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE OF COVID-19 PATIENTS URGED
By: Eleanor Valeros | Published Thursday, April 16, 2020
Covid patients who voluntarily disclose information are doing heroic acts too, says Gov. Gwen Garcia, as this will save others. (Lito Tecson)

While the Cebu Provincial Government respects the right to privacy of Covid-19 patients and their family, it also deems it more helpful and meaningful to the community if patients reveal their identity voluntarily.

“Revealing yourself sends the alarm signal on who you might have had contact with,” Garcia said.

“Og mag-contact tracing unya siya ra maoy pangutan-on, he cannot possibly remember tanan niya nga na-come in contact with. Pero kadtong uban, mahinumdum gyud niya unya, it is for the protection of others,” Garcia pointed this out in a previous press conference.

However, she said, what was announced recently by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles has certain qualifications.

The disclosure of information on the identity of the patient is not for the public, but for public officials of local government units involved and the health officials.

“I’m still shackled by the conditions. Mao na’y atong limitations kay dili ta mahimo nga mosulti in public, apan kami nga officials mahimong masayod kon kinsa ni sila,” Garcia pointed out.

Nograles called on getting the consent of Covid-19 patients first before having their identities revealed to the public.

“To encourage the voluntary coordination with epidemiology and surveillance units (ESUs) of close contacts of patients who tested positive for Covid-19, subject to the rights of patients to withhold consent, all health facilities, whether private or public, are hereby directed to request for the consent of the said patients for the public disclosure of their identities,” Nograles said in announcing new guidelines approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) by end of March.

Releasing of identity information involving Covid-19 cases should be based on the Data Privacy Act which regulates the collection and release of personal data, considering the handling of personal and sensitive personal information necessary to fulfill the mandate of local government officials during a public health emergency.

As of April 15, Wednesday, 22 new cases are recorded in Cebu City which is considered a Covid-19 hotspot in the island of Cebu. Two positive cases in Lapu-Lapu City are on repeat tests. One new case is added in Mandaue City. This is according to Department of Health – Central Visayas Health Development Center Director Jaime Bernadas.

To recall, Garcia was the first local chief executive in Cebu to have supported disclosure of the identity of the patient.

In her regular press conference today, April 15, she mentioned of her nephew’s recovery from Covid-19 in New York City, USA. She said she appreciates that David Lat, a lawyer by profession, posted his condition on his Facebook account. David is the son of her cousin, Zenda Garcia-Lat.

On March 16, David was admitted to the hospital with the coronavirus. He recounted in an article he wrote for “The Washington Post” that he had a number of flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, aches, and fatigue. He said that on March 20, he was intubated or placed on a ventilator. In the next six days he was basically asleep, under sedation. The ventilator served as his lungs.

“Thank God he is out of the woods, now quite recovered. For me his voluntary disclosure was a heroic thing to do because he was not thinking of himself. He was thinking of others. He was doing his own way of saving others,” Garcia said. (Eleanor Valeros)