Health workers in protective gear rally in front of the Department of Health main office in Manila on Wednesday, November 12, to denounce the government's alleged inadequate preparations against the dreaded Ebola virus, which has killed over 4,000 in West Africa.

Health workers in protective gear rally in front of the Department of Health main office in Manila on Wednesday, November 12, to denounce the government’s alleged inadequate preparations against the dreaded Ebola virus, which has killed over 4,000 in West Africa.

MANILA, Nov 18 (Mabuhay) — It is “not a bad idea” for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. and Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin to issue an apology for not wearing protective gear during their visit to quarantined Filipino peacekeepers on Caballo Island, former Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral said Tuesday.

In an interview at the sidelines of the Philippine College of Physicians health forum, Cabral said the visit was probably done with good intentions.

She added, however, that there might have been an “oversight” and that the officials should have put on protective gear.

“That (saying sorry) is going to be up to Gen. Catapang and Sec. Garin, pero apologizing is not a bad idea,” she told reporters. “Parang oversight … Kung meron sa protocol na dapat walang pumunta doon at may nagpunta na hindi nagsuot ng protective gear, masasabing oversight ‘yon on their part.”

She added: “Siguro meron silang mahusay na intention sa pagpunta doon, kaya lang siguro ay nag-ingat sana sila nang kaunti by wearing protective gear para magpakita sila ng ehemplo sa iba. Gaya nu’ng mga kamag-anak, baka sabihin, ‘Pwede naman palang makadalaw, bakit kami hindi makadalaw?’ Dapat may reason. For sure, may reason.”

On Sunday, Catapang and Garin, together with respective spokesmen Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc and Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, went to visit the quarantined peacekeepers on Caballo Island without protective equipment.

Sought for comment amid criticisms, Catapang has said they were “not violating anything,” and added that Garin was the one setting the safety protocols.

For her part, Cabral said that the officials should explain if they did bend protocol during the visit.

‘Pinoprotektahan lang’

While the peacekeepers have been cleared for Ebola before leaving Liberia, Cabral echoed the government’s insistence that the 21-day quarantine in Caballo Island is an extra step in protocol to make sure they really are safe from the disease.

“Pinoprotektahan lang nila ‘yung mga pamilya. Unang-una, masasabi natin na remote ang possibility na merong Ebola ‘yung mga tao na ‘yon kasi na-quarantine na nga sila ng 21 days sa Liberia, ‘di ba? So extra protection na lang [dahil] kapag nagkaroon ng Ebola ang isa at kumalat sa pamilya, mas malaking sisihan ‘yon,” she said.

Cabral called on the families “to allow [the government] that certain measure of extra protection,” and for patience for the additional 21 days that their relatives have to be away from them.

She said that “in essence,” the families can visit the peacekeepers while wearing protective gear, but added: “Siguro mas maigi ‘yung huwag na lang. Anyway, sandali na lang naman ‘yon.

Public’s ‘overreaction’

Cabral also said the public’s reaction to the DOH and AFP officials’ visit may be “disproportionate,” given that the peacekeepers were not contagious to begin with.

“I think it says more of what the public thinks about the issue more than our preparedness. Ako naman, parang overreaction sa atin ‘yon. Hindi naman natin kailangang i-condemn si Gen. Catapang, si Sec. Garin, dahil sa nangyaring ito. We should derive lessons from this para next time, ‘di na mangyayari,” she said.

She added: “Unang-una nga sinasabi na nila na hindi naman contagious ‘yung mga tao dahil wala silang symptoms, extra precaution lang ‘yon. So kung merong isa o dalawang nag-breach ng government protocol and it was for good intention, baka naman pwede na nating sabihin na what we can do is learn from this.” (MNS)