Monitoring COVID-19 Policies and Mainstreaming Lessons in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Planning
Amidst ongoing challenges due to covid19 as a pandemic, many policy researchers have struggled to find the best means of consolidating vital information that can guide important government decisions in managing this public health crisis. In response to COVID-19, the UP Resilience Institute developed this compendium of covid19 related policies, as part of its consolidated efforts under the UP Covid Pandemic Response Team (Covid PRT). The Covid PRT has currently produced several other innovative DRRM initiatives such as endcov.ph website, YANI encov chatbot interface, Covid PRT policy briefs on its official Facebook page, and online database for tracking of covid19 cases across the country.
The purpose of this project is to mainstream pandemic protocols into the country’s disaster risk management plans and policies to ensure policy coherence on addressing the pandemics in general by focusing on the current covid19 challenges. This project seeks to compile, document and rapidly annotate covid19 related policies, and assess trends as such policies evolve in relation to the rapidly changing demands for policy reform. Corollarily, these annotations and rapid assessments may be used as current and future reference for monitoring the use of scientific evidence or rationale in the development of policy responses related to the management of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. As a 2nd phase, key lessons and recommendations shall be synthesized and mainstreamed into already existing local and national DRM policies and plans which are already existing as mandated by various laws.
1st Phase: UPRI’s policy compendium aims to consolidate all of the policies related to the development of the PH COVID-19 efforts made by the government at the national and local levels. It will include two main parts which are – (1) the time table of the policies, and (2) annotations/descriptions of each policy arranged by date (earliest to latest). The main purpose of arranging the policies by date is to showcase and track policy developments, especially as conditions change, and policy responses evolve. Updating, documentation and annotation shall be done regularly and periodically within the duration of the project, based on the latest policy issuances and declarations collated from the Office of the President (OP), the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the National Task Force (NTF), specific national government agencies (DOH, DSWD, DILG, DTI, DOLE, CHED, DEPED, etc.), and local government units (province, city, municipality).
2nd Phase: Based on the outputs of the 1st Phase, emerging policy responses, policy trends, gap analysis, and studies on barriers and challenges related to covid19 prevention and control, shall be done. Key lessons, recommendations and viable policy options shall be mainstreamed as recommended in existing plans and policies such as, but not limited to, local DRRM plans, contingency and public service continuity plans for epidemics, and national DRRM plan.
The policy documentation and analysis shall revolve around the following key themes or questions:
- What are the government’s policy responses to the pandemic at the national and locallevel? What existing institutional arrangements have been put in place to facilitate the implementation of said policies? Are there any observable trends in how these policies have evolved over time?
- What good practices and lessons can be drawn from the policies implemented by the IATF, NTF, NGAs, and LGUs? How can these be presented to the public in an informative and easy to use manner?
- What are salient gaps in existing COVID-19 policies? How can these be addressed moving forward? How can good practices be replicated, scaled or integrated into DRM existing plans and policies?
Given such key themes, emerging protocols using the DRR framework, best practices and policy innovations shall be mainstreamed into our DRM policies and plans.
- Compile all COVID-19 policies both at the national and local level into a single document in the form of a shareable and publicly available Compendium of COVID-19 Policies. This can be a useful reference not only in ongoing efforts to fight the pandemic but also in planning for similar episodes in the future.
- Track and analyze policy developments and provide informative guides through publicly available dashboard to raise public awareness and inform policymaking; and
- Formulate concrete recommendations for incorporating good practices and lessons into existing DRM plans at the national and local levels.
Literature Review (focusing mainly on WHO reports)
The COVID19 pandemic presents new challenges to all sectors at a global level. The World Health Organization (WHO)-Director General in February 2018 have warned the world of a possible epidemic that can start at any country, at any time. Even Bill Gates, in his 2015 TedTalk, expressed his concerns about the world’s unpreparedness for the next epidemic. Despite the recognized looming epidemic threat; and advice of prominent personalities on different platforms, the COVID-19 pandemic still caught the international community off-guard.
Since COVID-19 is still a novel challenge, policy development at the international level is not robust yet. There are various WHO frameworks and implementation plans on viruses similar to COVID-19 such as the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, but these are sporadic.
In February 2020, WHO released a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan that can act as a general guide for countries, especially those with weak health systems. However, there are no specific, situational, and detailed guidelines to steer country programs, much less for community-based prevention and control protocols. In short, global standards and operational methodologies to guide policy implementation are still evolving.
The WHO had a few things in mind when it worked with Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) to respond to the pandemic. First is surveillance, existing systems in place were capitalized to make identification of cases faster. Second is contact tracing, WHO also assisted the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau to develop COVIDKAYA. It is an app that acts as a case and contact tracing reporting system. Third is Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) which is a vital element in lowering casualties of the virus. The WHO helped DOH in its provision for personal protective equipment; IPC training has also been done for health care workers. Fourth, is laboratory and therapeutic access. DOH was able to accredit COVID-19 laboratories with the help of WHO. Fifth would be clinical care where the importance of proper knowledge and skills of health workers are stressed. Sixth are non-pharmaceutical interventions and importance of mental health services, these included physical distancing measures and travel-related measures. Seventh, are effective risk communication and engagement strategies for people to understand the situation. Eight is Logistics support to accommodate the moving equipment and supplies to combat the virus, WHO was able to support DOH in developing a real-time commodities dashboard. Aside from support at the national level, the WHO also recognizes the need to provide subnational support. It has worked with DOH Field Implementation and Coordination Teams (FICT) and Centers for Health Development (CHDs) at the regional level. Next was responding to outbreaks in high risk areas, examples would be closed settings such as prison and hospitals. And lastly, moving forward with the response; some present challenges are containing infection transmissions, mitigating impacts in high risk communities and confined settings, and making sure of the enforcement of existing non-pharmaceutical interventions.
The WHO will still conduct a capacity assessment, and therefore newer and updated protocols will be developed along the way. WHO requires that communities are fully engaged if the government adjusts public and social health measures. Nevertheless, there’s a gap for community-based approaches to prevent community transmission. Hence, the above scenario actually exposes a great and urgent need to research and develop community-based protocols and tools to help LGUs deal with covid19.
A rapid perusal of DOH issuances also show that the country does not yet have a comprehensive and consolidated national strategy and program on pandemic prevention and control. The same is true for DRRM plans at the local and national levels.
- Policy Tracking and Analysis
The desk review shall cover two levels:
National: Documentations for establishing a baseline on policies related to covid-19 and other emerging/reemerging diseases before 2020
– Is there a current national program on Covid-19
-What are the previous and current community-based local health contingency plans dealing with viral epidemics?
– What are the current policy interventions in response to COVID-19?
– How have covid-19 policies evolved?
Local: Documenting the policy responses of LGUs, how they have evolved, and what are their thematic areas
- Dashboard and Compendium Development
Development of an online dashboard that will contain all relevant national and local policies for easy access and retrieval. This also requires the development of a database management system and production of a Compendium of COVID-19 Policies that will be made available to the public and update on a regular basis.
- Good Practices Documentation, Gap Analysis, and Lesson-Drawing
This will involve an analysis of good practices, gaps, barriers and challenges national agencies and local governments are experiencing with respect to the covid19 problem. The review of current best practices and identification of gaps and lessons are meant to extract key lessons and recommendations to mainstream pandemic in national and local DRRM policies and plans, including suggestions for the development of a National Pandemic Prevention and Control Program as a component of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan.