MANILA — A group of doctors, including a former health secretary, may face sanctions for holding an event that violated the country’s quarantine guidelines, the Department of Health said on Monday.
“Sa event na nangyari na 'yan, nakita natin ang certain violations sa guidelines natin,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
(In that event, we saw certain violations of our guidelines.)
Vergeire was responding to a question whether last week's Flatten the Fear event, organized by Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines, violated any quarantine rules.
“Wala pa po tayong pinapayagan na mass gathering sa ngayon dito po sa ating mga guidelines na pinalalabas ng ating Inter-Agency Task Force,” she said.
(We are not allowing any mass gatherings based on the guidelines of our Inter-Agency Task Force.)
She said they also saw the video showing that many of those who attended did not wear face masks.
“When this was reported to us, we were able to relay it immediately to the Department of Interior and Local Government. Sila po ay nag-iimbestiga sa ngayon… Kung ano ang lumabas sa findings nila, necessary sanctions should be meted out,” the health official said.
(The DILG is now investigating… And whatever comes out in their findings, necessary sanctions should be meted out.)
Among the speakers at the event was former health secretary Jaime Galvez Tan, who served in January to June 1995.
Galvez Tan and the said group have been advocating for the lifting of the lockdown, and the use of hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis and treatment for COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine is not officially cleared for use for COVID-19 patients.
The DOH has said that hydroxychloroquine, which was originally made to treat malaria, is not recommended for patients with COVID-19 and even to prevent its infection.
The World Health Organization earlier removed hydroxychloroquine from its clinical trials because it did not show any effect on COVID-19 patients. There are also some studies saying it has side effects or safety issues.
Vergeire called on people to be evidence-based.
“Dahil ito ay maaaring makasama at maaaring makapagbigay ng harmful effects sa ating mga kababayan,” she said, adding that all drugs should first undergo regulatory process.
(Because this can be dangerous and can even cause harmful effects on Filipinos.)
In the video of the Flatten the Fear event, a journalist asked the organizers why they were not wearing face masks. One doctor said, “We deliberately removed the mask because we are under prophylaxis,” referring to hydroxychloroquine.
Vergeire said nonetheless that the DOH is open to receive recommendations from the group.