IATF OKs mandatory disclosure of COVID-19 patients' info for contact tracing
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on Sunday said disclosure of personal information of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) positive cases is now mandatory for effective contact tracing efforts.
In a virtual presser, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the IATF approved last Wednesday a resolution allowing the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), in coordination with the local government units (LGUs), to lead the contact tracing efforts of the government.
“The Office of Civil Defense or OCD in coordination with other agencies and Local Government Units as maybe appropriate shall hereafter lead the contact tracing efforts of the government. For this purpose, the DOH and the OCD are directed to enter into a data sharing agreement in accordance with Republic Act Number 10173 or the Data Privacy Act,” Nograles said.
“The IATF adopts the policy of mandatory public disclosure of personal information relating to positive COVID-19 cases to enhance the contract tracing efforts of the government,” he added.
As of Saturday, the country has 4,428 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Last April 6, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) said disclosing information of COVID-19 patients can only induce fear among these individuals given the multiple reports now on physical assaults, harassment, and discrimination endured by patients, patients under investigation (PUIs), persons under monitoring (PUMs), and even health workers.
“These threats to their safety and security may discourage them to report their symptoms to public authorities, take confirmatory tests, and submit to treatments,” it said in a statement.
“If a patient, PUI, or PUM himself or herself would want to disclose such information, as what some public figures have done, that is their personal choice,” it added.
NPC said the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (DPA) is not a hindrance to the COVID-19 response.
“There are enough provisions in the law to allow contact tracing, treating patients, and addressing threats while guaranteeing the privacy that COVID-19 positive patients, persons under investigation (PUIs), and persons under monitoring (PUMs) expect,” it said.
It said Republic Act No. 11332 (An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern) mandates patients, PUIs, and PUMs to be fully transparent and truthful to the Department of Health (DOH), hospitals, and other pertinent public authority on the personal data (travel and medical history, etc.) requested from them.
“Such information will be material for health and local institutions to treat them and/or properly contain the spread of the infectious disease in a timely manner,” NPC said.
NPC said even in times of calamity or a state of a public health emergency, rules on patient privacy, the confidentiality of health records, medical ethics, and data subjects’ rights remain in effect and upholding them equate to protecting lives. Ella Dionisio/DMS