MANILA, Aug 3 (Mabuhay) –The Department of Health on Tuesday said there is no need to establish a task force to monitor and address the monkeypox situation in the Philippines.

At a press briefing, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country already has an Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to deal with the monkeypox virus.

“Hindi natin kailangan gumawa ng another layer or another task force para matugunan natin ito [We don’t need to make another layer or task force to address this]. Tandaan po natin ‘yung IATF was specifically created for emerging and reemerging diseases. Ibig sabihin, ang IATF is not just specific for COVID-19. It will also be applicable to the other emerging and reemerging diseases,” she said.

“We don’t need to create another IATF, we already have one. We are just waiting for its reconstitution, and it can be used and it can be applicable that it can provide the response needed for monkeypox,” she added.

The DOH is currently reconstituting the member agencies of the IATF to only include those with relevant and intended functions.

Vergeire’s remark was echoed by infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante, saying that another task force is unnecessary as the DOH already released its guidelines on monkeypox.

He said that what is needed is a ”proper coordination,” with the DOH leading the implementation, along with relevant agencies, departments, local government units, and the Bureau of Quarantine.

“Meron naman tayong agency kagaya ng Department of Health, may mga assigned na rin diyan in terms of paghahanda sa monkeypox. With our experience with COVID-19, andoon na rin ‘yung mga committees na ‘yan, in place na rin ‘yan,” Solante said at the Palace public briefing.

(We already have an agency like the DOH which is assigned to prepare for monkeypox. With our experience with COVID-19, there are committees already in place for that.)

Senator JV Ejercito earlier urged President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to create a task force similar to the IATF to ensure a coordinated response from the government regarding monkeypox.

This task force should involve officials from health, quarantine, immigration, and other related agencies, he said.

The DOH announced last Friday that the Philippines has already recorded its first case of monkeypox in a 31-year-old patient who arrived from abroad on July 19. He tested positive for the virus on Thursday, July 28.

On July 23, WHO declared monkeypox as a “public health emergency of international concern” —the highest alarm it can sound.

A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.  (MNS)

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