24 of 36 PUI tested negative of 2019-nCoV ARD; first death confirmed—DOH

Maris Federez   •   February 2, 2020   •   1195

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) announced at a press briefing on Sunday that, as of Saturday, February 1, 2020, twenty-four (24) patients under investigation (PUIs) tested negative for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) while two (2) tested positive.

Samples from four (4) other PUIs are currently being tested at RITM.

In the press briefing, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III revealed that the two confirmed cases are the previously-announced 38-year-old Chinese female and her companion, a 44-year-old Chinese male, who were both admitted for isolation and supportive treatment at San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat.

Read: Philippines reports first case of novel coronavirus

Both patients are from Wuhan, China and arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong last January 21, 2020.

DOH also announced that the 44-year-old male died on February 1, 2020, after developing severe pneumonia due to multiple viral and bacterial infections over the course of his admission.

The DOH said that, in his last few days, the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement.  His condition, however, deteriorated within his last 24 hours resulting in his demise.

“We are currently working with the Chinese Embassy to ensure the dignified management of the remains according to national and international standards to contain the disease,” Secretary Duque said.

In the statement the DOH released following the press briefing, the health department assured the public that all measures needed to contain the spread of the virus is being strictly implemented and followed, and that “San Lazaro Hospital has implemented rigorous infection control protocols while caring for the said patients.”

The health department also guaranteed the public “that both patients were isolated following strict isolation standards, and all health personnel who came in contact with them practiced stringent infection control measures and wore appropriate personal protective equipment.”

The statement further said that “the Epidemiology Bureau (EB) of the Department is currently conducting contact tracing of passengers aboard the flights of the two positive cases. EB has secured the manifestos of the flights and is in close coordination with the concerned airlines. Contact tracing activities are ongoing in Cebu and Dumaguete, and in other places where the patients stayed and traveled to.”

“The Philippine Government has already implemented a temporary travel ban for travelers coming from China, Macao, and Hong Kong. DOH is monitoring every development on the 2019-nCoV very closely and is taking proactive measures to contain the spread of this virus in our country. This health event is fast-evolving and fluid. We are continuously recalibrating our plans and efforts as the situation develops,” Duque assured.

“We are providing the public with constant updates and advisories as frequently as possible, so all I ask from the public now is to heed the advisories from official DOH channels and to refrain from sharing unverified and unvalidated information. I assure the public that we will keep you abreast of any information that we have,” he added.

The DOH also affirmed that there are currently “no reports of community spread of the virus within the country. However, the public is still reminded to practice prevention measures such as proper hand hygiene and observance of cough etiquette.”

The DOH has also confirmed that as of February 1, 2020, there were an additional five (5) patients under investigation (PUIs), bringing the total recorded number of PUIs to thirty-six (36).

Twenty-three (23) PUIs are currently admitted and isolated, while ten (10) have been discharged under strict monitoring.

The department also clarified that the previously-reported PUI mortality was found to be negative for 2019-nCoV.

“The new developments warrant a more diligent approach in containing the threats of the 2019-nCoV. The Department of Health is continuously improving and scaling up its public health measures and reminds the public to remain calm and vigilant,” Secretary Duque concluded. — /mbmf

Brazil’s Bolsonaro tested again for novel coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday (July 6) he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus, after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.

Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs “clean.”

CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday.

The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate in March. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

Singapore’s migrant workers fear financial ruin after virus ordeal

UNTV News   •   June 9, 2020

As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.

The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.

As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.

“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.

For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.

Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.

The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.

“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.

He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.

That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.

The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.

Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.

“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.

Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)

Metro Manila may be placed under GCQ in June —Sec. Lorenzana

Maris Federez   •   May 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — National Task Force Against Covid-19 chairperson and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday (May 24) said that Metro Manila may possibly be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) in June.

With this, Metro Manila residents may expect more relaxed quarantine restrictions to be implemented next month.

Lorenzana said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has been discussing the readiness of the capital region for it to be transitioned to GCQ from the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

“More likely mag-gi-GCQ na tayo by June 1,” the defense chief said.

He added that areas that still have novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases will remain under their control.

“Ang pinag-uusapan namin sa IATF, eh mag-GCQ, pero ‘yung mga areas na meron pa ring… mga infection baka ‘yun na lang ang ikontrol ng konti,” Lorenzana said.

The areas that will be placed under GCQ are those that are considered to be at low risk of COVID-19. With this, more industries will be allowed to operate.

Lorenzana insists that although recorded COVID-19 cases has been going down everyday, quarantine measures must remain to prevent the second wave of the infection.

“We would like to impress in our people ‘yung self-discipline, para masanay sila na ito na ‘yung new normal, na social distancing, wearing of face mask, sanitation,” the official said.

Task Force Against Covid-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. has earlier mentioned about the planned “zoning concept” or the measure that will limit the implementation of a lockdown in an area based on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. —(with details from Victor Cosare) /mbmf

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