Mon, 06 Jul 2020

Anti-discrimination amid COVID-19 pandemic

Philippine Information Agency
01 Jun 2020, 16:38 GMT+10

Now that health, medical, and service workers are at the forefront of the COVID-19 health crisis, these healthcare and service professionals spend their days confronting a deadly and highly contagious virus notwithstanding the risks to their personal health and the wellbeing of their love ones.

Bound by an oath to fulfill their duty of healing the sick, providing medical relief, and other vital services amid the pandemic, these healthcare and service workers work tirelessly to ensure we win the battle against the health emergency threat and curb viral transmissions in the country.

On the other end of the spectrum are the COVID-19 positive patients, who, of latest count have reached more than 18,000 all over the country, so far. The virus, as it turned out, is an infectious disease and most people who fall sick with the contagion will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and recover without special treatment. Also, it was learned that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, and quickly fall on floors or surfaces. So some hygiene practices such as regular proper handwashing and strict physical distancing may provide protection against infection.

Both the healthcare and service workers and the infected patients who are already pouring their hearts and energies in the fight against the virus must now deal with yet another invisible and powerful adversary--discrimination.

According to the World Health Organization, social stigma in the context of health is the negative association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific disease.

In an outbreak, this may mean people are labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against, treated separately, and/or experience loss of status because of a perceived link with a disease.

Such treatment can negatively affect those with the disease, as well as their caregivers, family, friends and communities. People who don't have the disease but share other characteristics with this group may also suffer from stigma.

The current COVID-19 outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviours against people of certain ethnic backgrounds as well as anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus.

To protect both sectors from the stigma born of fear around healthcare and service personnel and those courting the contagion, the Makati City Government, for its part, enacted City Ordinance No. 2020-087 or the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.

Under the city ordinance, all persons residing and working in Makati, including visitors, are prohibited from stigmatizing or discriminating against persons who have contracted any kind of infectious or communicable disease, those suspected or being monitored to have been infected, and those who are at risk of infection such as the health and service workers.

Also under the measure, all persons living and working in Makati are prohibited from:

1.) Spreading false information or the identity of individuals who are infected, under investigation or monitoring due to an infectious or communicable disease in traditional and digital media

2.) Imposing restrictions on housing or lodging such as unilateral termination of lease contracts and forced ejectment

3.) Rejecting job applications, terminating, or imposing discriminatory policies in hiring, provision of employment, and other related benefits, promotion or assignment of an individual even though such he or she obtained clearance of being physically fit to work from health officials

4.) Imposing travel restrictions within Makati or refusing entry into the city (except for restrictions that are in accordance with policies set by the government on community and individual quarantine)

5.) Refusing admission, expelling, segregating, imposing harsher disciplinary actions, or denying benefits or services to a student or a prospective student (except where segregation is mandated by the government to prevent the spread of the disease; provided, that alternative or distance learning modalities will be made available to the segregated student)

6.) Prohibiting people from entering business establishments

7.) Refusing to transport remains or to provide embalming and/or burial services to persons who died due to infectious diseases

8.) Committing physical or psychological violence, which causes or tends to cause stigma, disgrace or shame

9.) Bullying, including name-calling, a person whether personally or through any form of print, broadcast, or social media.

10.) Committing other similar acts that are intended, or have the effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons.

The measure carries penalties of P5,000 for first and second offenses, and the same sanction plus an imprisonment of one year for third and succeeding offenses.

While sustained targeted testing for COVID-19 is still ongoing in densely populated cities of Metro Manila, it is worth mentioning that on social media, the praise for health and service workers continue to go viral, with a considerable number of netizens calling them heroes. Likewise, pictures of recovering patients have also been publicized and garnered numerous likes and well wishers. There are also photos posted that show hospital and service staff being sent food every day by people who want to express their gratitude to them for putting duty over self. These have become regular posts in numerous social media sites, appreciating the sacrifice of healthcare and service personnel for the good of the public. (PIA NCR)

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