The House Committee on Health on Tuesday, received updates from several agencies and health institutions regarding the surge in COVID-19 cases as well as corresponding initiatives implemented to address the crisis.

Committee Chairperson Rep. Angelina Tan M.D. (4th District, Quezon) lamented that numerous hospitals are reaching full occupancy, while active cases continue to rise everyday. Health Undersecretary Rosette Vergeire noted that Metro Manila is once again placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to “slow down the surge of cases, stop the spread of variants, allow the health system to recover, and protect more lives.” While Baguio City Mayor and the country’s contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong reported that contact tracing in the country is worsening. He said that his team would recapacitate local government units, work closely with the Local Government Academy in conducting webinars, resolve issues on the Stay Safe application, support and mentor LGUs in case analyses, as well as evaluate LGUs’ COVID-19 management and response.

Additionally, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar informed the panel that the agency has already established new quarantine and isolation facilities, off-site dormitories for healthcare workers, as well as modular hospitals to increase intensive care capacity. For his part, Dr. Allan Landrito, an advocate of Ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19, cited that the drug has a 99-percent efficacy rate. Dr. Pierre Kory of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance backed Landrito, noting that Ivermectin has been proven by studies done in various countries to be an effective prophylaxis of the virus. However, Acting World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines representative Dr. Rabi Abeyasinghe said that the trials and studies conducted are insufficient for the WHO to push for Ivermectin as an anti-COVID drug. Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo clarified that the agency is not prohibiting Ivermectin, but only advising the public against its purchase and use because the drug has yet to acquire a Certificate of Product Registration or a Compassionate Special Permit.

Reps. Enrico Pineda (Party-list, 1-PACMAN) and Michael Defensor (Party-list, ANAKALUSUGAN), who both survived COVID-19, were among the legislators who welcomed the use of Ivermectin. Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta and Rep. Virgilio Lacson (Party-list, MANILA TEACHERS) disputed the bureaucracy for impeding the availability of a possible cure amid a public health emergency.