MANILA, Mar 24 (Mabuhay) –Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday stressed the need to “overhaul” the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Hontiveros made the remark after fellow Senator Imee Marcos pushed for the abolition of the body, concurred by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, to allow for a true “medical and science-based” approach in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is clear as day that we need to overhaul the IATF and replace its members with public health experts who actually know how to handle a public health emergency,” Hontiveros said, citing the present rate of around 8,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

“The extreme call is to abolish the IATF, but during a pandemic, an interagency body is necessary. It must be led by public health experts and epidemiologists. Not by military officers,” she added.

According to Hontiveros, the IATF, in its current composition, has continuously walked in the “wrong direction” despite the public and lawmakers calling them out.

“We must undertake a complete management overhaul of the IATF. We need health experts who will lead the way, just like in other countries,” she said.

“We need a team of public health managers who understand that we need a systematic health approach and have the expertise to accomplish their mandate of effectively and scientifically controlling the coronavirus,” she added.

Hontiveros said Filipinos are making sacrifices every day because the IATF does not want to face the results of their failed pandemic response.

“Stop forcing the Filipino people to martyr themselves just to keep a few in positions of power. The public has put up long enough with the IATF’s gross mishandling of the most basic solutions of test, trace, isolate and treat,” she said.

“It has come to a point in which their failures are inexcusable and unforgivable. Overhaul the IATF immediately,” she added.

Composed of various government agencies, the IATF is the body that handles the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III serves as chairperson of the body, while Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles is a co-chair.

The IATF has yet to make a response on the calls for its abolition.

The Philippines on Monday reported another record high of 8,019 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total tally to 671,792. (MNS)

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