MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Sunday denied that the government is suppressing information regarding 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) fatalities.
In a virtual presser on Sunday, Cabinet Secretary and IATF Spokesperson Karlo Nograles made this remark following reports that a hospital in Metro Manila was instructed to stop counting Covid-19 deaths.
Citing the Department of Health (DOH), Nograles said the department has already clarified that it has never issued any order to stop the census of Covid-19 fatalities to any health facility.
“Hindi po tayo nag-uutos ng concealment. Bawal po ‘yan (There is no order to conceal Covid-19 fatalities. That is illegal),” he said.
He emphasized that various government functionaries regularly appear in the media to give updates on the different actions being taken in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We recognize that it is our responsibility to give you the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts. You deserve nothing less,” he said.
He also warned against sharing fake news or rumors circulating on social media.
“Our efforts to contain the Covid-19 outbreak must be complemented by our efforts to contain misinformation and disinformation,” he said.
Under the “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act” or Republic Act 11469, fake news peddlers may be penalized with imprisonment of two months or a fine ranging from PHP10,000 to PHP 1 million.
Over the weekend, broadcaster Arnold Clavio, on his official Instagram account, cited an unnamed front-liner claiming that there were several bodies littered the hallway of a certain Metro Manila hospital.
The DOH is currently investigating the allegation, adding it will provide updates as soon as possible.
As of Saturday, the DOH reported a total of 4,428 Covid-19 cases, 247 deaths, and 157 recoveries.
Observe 12-hour rule
Nograles, meanwhile, reminded funeral homes to cremate the remains of Covid-19 fatalities within 12 hours from the time of death as stipulated under the IATF funeral guidelines or protocols.
He also urged funeral homes to start the process of cremation without waiting for payments.
“Do not wait for payment. Kung kailangan i-cremate, i-cremate na po ‘yan at wag na natin hintayin kung sino ang magbabayad. Mahahanapan natin ng solusyon ‘yan (If there is a need to cremate, cremate them and let’s not wait for someone to pay for the expenses. We will find a solution for payments),” he said.
On March 25, Nograles said a PHP25,000 “funeral support fund” will be given to indigents who died due Covid-19.
He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be providing the fund to indigents who suffered from Covid-19, whether confirmed, suspect or probable cases.
“The DSWD shall allocate amounts for a funeral support fund allotted to the indigent confirmed Covid-19 cases and PUIs regardless whether they are undergoing home quarantine or admitted in a public or private facility. DSWD shall allot PHP25,000 per deceased for this purpose,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said LGUs should assign funeral service facilities that can cremate the remains within 12 hours from the time of death.
If the deceased is a Muslim, he said the remains should be placed in an air-tight sealed bag or container and buried in the nearest Muslim cemetery within 12 hours while observing Muslim rites.
Nograles said LGUs will also be tasked to provide “possible financial assistance to cover the logistics, fuel, salary, and other expenses that will be incurred in the process”, he added.
He noted that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and LGUs will monitor and penalize funeral homes that refused to provide logistics and transport remains of Covid-19 cases.
The LGU may release issuances or ordinances to put a price cap or impose a price freeze on funeral services located within their jurisdiction, he said.
Funeral and interment services are still allowed to remain operational under the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. (PNA)