National ID system needed to locate disease carriers, says ONA
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Health Secretary Enrique Ona said he wished the country had a more extensive database that would make it easier for the authorities to track down Filipinos suspected of being carriers of deadly diseases.
Ona made this statement here Wednesday as he admitted that the absence of such a database made the search for passengers of an airliner that had flown home a Filipino male nurse who had tested positive for the virus that causes the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, a long and arduous one.
He said it took the Department of Heatlh a full week before it was able to track down most of the passengers of the Etihad flight that brought home the Filipino nurse from Abu Dhabi last month. The Filipino subsequently tested negative for the corona virus.
But even nearly a month after the plane landed, Ona said, 10 passengers had yet to be accounted for.
“We know their names, we know where they came from, but we don’t know where to look for them,” said Ona, who was here Wednesday following a visit to Marawi City.
He said one week was too long a period to track down possible carriers of a deadly virus, especially one that could be transmitted to others quickly.
If the government had a national ID system, with vital information about each Filipino, the contact tracing would have been easier, Ona added.
Despite the experience, he said, the government was still prepared to respond to any outbreak of illnesses in the country, “excluding what we see in the movies.” He was referring to make-believe contagions that were the central plots of a number of movies.
He said the country had adequate isolation solation facilities and it had institutions such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Pasay and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Hospital in Cebu for testing specimens.
Ona said as part of prevention, the government also sent epidemiologists and medical specialists to countries affected by MERS.
“We don’t have health attachés in countries affected by the MERS-CoV so we sent them to study and make coordination to protect our citizens,” Ona said.
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