MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reaffirmed its position that health policies and protocols should not put people at risk of violating their human rights after hearing reports that COVID-19 patients had their houses marked.
In a statement Friday, CHR said the local government in Ozamiz City marked close to 100 houses of people who tested positive for COVID-19, and those who have close contacts with positive patients, with caution tapes.
“Public health policies on containing the spread of coronavirus in any locality in the Philippines must never compromise the human rights of individuals. A recent report in Ozamiz City cites that at least 100 houses of residents who tested positive to Covid-19 and who are close contacts were marked with caution tapes by the local health officials,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
According to De Guia, labels that affect how people are treated can make them vulnerable to discrimination, even if they’re really just trying to contain infections.
It can develop into a problem, as people may shun the COVID-19 test entirely, leading to the disease spreading undetected.
“The Commission on Human Rights reminds the government that overt labeling of individuals or groups of people affected by the disease exposes them to possible discriminatory treatment and other negative associations. While we recognize the good intention of the ordinance, we urge the local officials to be mindful of the social stigmatization that may result from such practice,” she said.
“Apart from undermining the social cohesion in the community, it may discourage other individuals to report the illness and not seek healthcare immediately to avoid discrimination,” she added.
It’s not the first time that CHR has called out local government and private groups for discriminating against potential COVID-19 patients and degrading penalties for quarantine violations.
In July, CHR said it would investigate punishments such as requiring quarantine violators to dance or undress. Early this year, it noted curfew protocols shouldn’t be instituted because they don’t protect people from the virus, but kill them.
The key, according to De Guia, is to make sure that health services are adequate to prevent infections and localized transmission.
“Instead of instilling stigma and fear around the communicable disease, what works best is building trust in reliable health services, showing compassion and providing humanitarian assistance to those affected, and adopting practical measures to keep themselves and loved ones safe,” she noted.
“Open, honest, and effective communication of concrete steps in combatting the pandemic is a crucial step in creating a safe environment to dialogue about the Covid-19 situation and to enlist the cooperation of people to actively report cases while contributing in the containment of the virus,” she said.