JUNE 27, 2009 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Malacañang called on politicians yesterday to leave the job of fighting the A(H1N1) virus to the Department of Health (DOH).

Defending Health Secretary Francisco Duque III from criticisms, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III told reporters the DOH has been doing its job well.

“Maybe we should leave the DOH to do its work,” Bello said. “They know what to do. We can’t leave it to politicians like us or we might have conflagratory status of the virus here.”

Bello said it is better to be overprotective than under-protective because the extent of the viral infection is unknown. “I would like to say when it comes to addressing the problem, we should leave everything to the DOH,” he said.

“If you will recall, the virus has entered the country some time back yet they were able to contain it to a tolerable proportion.” Bello said the DOH advisories were keeping the anxious public informed and not creating panic as critics have alleged. “The DOH and Secretary Duque deserve commendation because he became a familiar face in households but maybe some ‘senatoriables’ were affected,” he said.

No reason to close churches

In Caloocan City, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said the rising cases of A(HINI) was not enough reason to close down Catholic churches.

Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines public affairs committee chairman said leaders of the Catholic Church would take “some drastic steps” once it has been established how quickly the A(H1N1) virus would spread.

“Maybe once we have identified what kind of illness this is,” he said.

“Let us see how the bishops will decide… In the first place, we have to know what kind of disease is it? This is still not clear to us. Secondly, how it is being transmitted.”

Some Catholic dioceses have already come out with circulars banning the holding of hands during Mass.

Duque welcomes inquiry

Secretary Duque welcomed yesterday a congressional inquiry into the DOH’s practices in countering the A(H1N1) influenza.

“The public has the right to know what is happening so they’ll know what to do,” he said.

“In the first place, it’s the reporters who keep on asking for interviews or press conferences and can we turn you down?”

He will face any investigation as the DOH has been doing its best to contain the virus and to ensure that the infected individuals are detected and given adequate treatment, Duque added.

Meanwhile, Duque said as a matter of protocol, the DOH does not announce the identities of individuals with the A(H1N1) virus, but that the agency immediately tracks down those who could have come in contact with them.

“If we name them, they will be stigmatized,” he said.

“Just like what happened in Jaen (Nueva Ecija), people are avoiding them. Aside from that, we don’t want to create panic. Many people hide when they learn that contact tracing would be conducted.” — WIth Evelyn Macairan, Sheila Crisostomo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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