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Legarda: PH must rebound stronger, more ready for global health emergencies

April 8, 2020

Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda today expressed concern on the world’s level of preparedness to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as she called on government to invest in strengthening the country’s capacity to prevent epidemics as national policies and plans for the “new normal” are drawn.

Legarda cited the 2019 Global Health Security Index report, which is the first comprehensive assessment of health security and capabilities of 195 countries and which stated that “national health security is fundamentally weak around the world” and that “no country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics.”

The report also indicated that “most countries lack foundational health systems capacities vital for epidemic and pandemic response” and that “coordination and training are inadequate among veterinary, wildlife, and public health professionals and policymakers.”

The Philippines is ranked 53rd in the list with a GHS Index score of 47.6—above the global average of 40.2 out of 100.

“Let’s face it: We are not prepared for COVID-19. Up to now, there is still no end in sight, but we are quickly learning more about this disease each day we fight it. This is another wake-up call for all governments to reassess and reinforce policies and measures on public health and safety in order to manage or avoid epidemics and pandemics. Governments must heed the warnings of science,” Legarda said.

Legarda mentioned a study on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Re-emerging Infection published by the Clinical Microbiology Reviews in October 2007 that warned of a possible outbreak of a disease close to SARS in Southern China due to their culture of eating exotic mammals.

It further stated that the demand for animal proteins in the area, including of horseshoe bats, which are considered host to coronaviruses, is because of rapid economic growth.

The study noted that “the small re-emergence of SARS in late 2003 after the resumption of the wildlife market in southern China and the recent discovery of a very similar virus in horseshoe bats, bat SARS-CoV, suggested that SARS can return if conditions are fit for the introduction, mutation, amplification, and transmission of this dangerous virus.”

Legarda, who earlier called for stricter and stronger regulations on illegal wildlife trade, said that governments must enforce such measures in order to protect biodiversity and avoid public health crises, such as the spread of COVID-19.

“This crisis might have revealed our inadequacies to respond and manage a pandemic, but I believe in our resolve and our ability to adapt and overcome any challenge. As soon as we overcome this, I hope we all commit to a planet that is safer and healthier for us and the future generations,” Legarda concluded.#