Boston Marathon cancelled for first time in its history

UNTV News   •   May 29, 2020   •   400

The Boston Marathon, originally scheduled to be held in April and then postponed until September because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has now been cancelled for the first time in its history, organisers said on Thursday (May 28).

The race, held annually since 1897, is the world’s most prestigious marathon and generally draws over 30,000 runners from all over the world.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the race, whose field attracts decorated professionals and Olympians to amateur runners, was not feasible this year due to the pandemic.

“While our goal and our hope is to make progress in containing the virus and recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on September 14 or any time this year,” Walsh said at a live news conference in Boston.

The 26.2-mile race (42km), which extends from the suburb of Hopkinton to downtown Boston, is the first of the six World Marathon Majors to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, which brought live sports to a standstill in mid-March.

The Tokyo Marathon went ahead on March 1 with elite runners only, London was postponed to Oct. 4 from April 26 and Berlin organisers said the race will not got ahead in September but did not specify if it would be postponed or cancelled altogether.

The Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon have not announced any changes to hold their events in October and November, respectively.

The 2021 Boston Marathon is scheduled for April 19. (Reuters)

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WHO sets up panel to review handling of COVID-19 pandemic

UNTV News   •   July 10, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday (July 9) it was setting up an independent panel to review its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response by governments.

The announcement follows strong criticism by United States President Donald Trump’s administration, which accused the WHO of being “China-centric,” and the U.S.’s formal notification on Tuesday that it was withdrawing from the U.N. agency in a year’s time.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have agreed to head the panel and chose its members, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual meeting with representatives of the agency’s 194 member states, which was webcast.

Tedros noted that in May, WHO’s member states adopted unanimously a resolution put forward by the European Union calling for an evaluation of the global response to the pandemic.

More than 12 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 548,429​ have died, according to a Reuters tally. (Reuters)

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DOH urges employers to strictly implement health protocols in workplaces

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday called on employers from both the public and private sectors to strictly enforce minimum health standards to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in workplaces.

In a virtual press forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they issued the appeal after investigation by the DOH Epidemiology Team revealed there were lapses in the implementation of health protocols in some offices that reported COVID-19 cases.

The minimum health standards set by the government’s task force against COVID-19 include the wearing of face mask, observing physical distancing, among others.

“Bagama’t may physical distancing, mask and all pero kapag kumakain magkakasama sa pantry so noong pumutok ang impeksyon nakita na maybe some of them who ate in that pantry became positive,” she said.

Vergeire stressed that employers should make sure that these health protocols are strictly followed to prevent the transmission of the viral respiratory disease among their employees who physically report to work.

Amid the rising number of employees contracting coronavirus disease, the health official said the agency is discussing the conduct of random testing of workers as recommended by the research group from the University of the Philippines (UP).

The UP Research Team earlier made the proposal after more than 200 personnel of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3 tested positive for COVID-19.

Vergeire said the DOH is still weighing on the proposal as randomized testing is “resource intensive” and the country has limited resources amid the pandemic.

“Hindi ko pa alam kung kakayanin ng ating sistema, yung sinasabing randomized testing,” she said.

“And, for how long will do we do this, di ba? So pag ginawa natin iyan, sabi nga natin ang ating testing is a point in time event. So pag tinest kita ngayon, maaring bukas may bago ka ng exposure, itetest ba kita uli?” she added.

Vergeire also admitted that conducting contact tracing among MRT-3 passengers would be difficult given the number of people who ride the trains every day.

She said the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force are now studying other measures that may be implemented on mass transport apart from temporarily suspending operations.

“Kapag talagang widespread ang community transmission, ‘yung contact tracing hindi na talaga nagwo-work yan,” she said.

“Dito sa nangyari sa MRT na ito, gumagawa tayo ng ibang strategies for us to be able na ma-contain natin. Unang-una nagsara ang MRT. Pangalawa, lahat ng empleyadong apektado pati yung close contacts nila were all quarantined. Pangatlo, they are still trying to gather para ma-test pa rin yung ibang employees nila para somehow ma-contain natin,” she added.

Vergeire also stated that the DOH will release a new set of guidelines on COVID-19 expanded testing which will include more groups and individuals.

Under the current DOH protocol, COVID-19 tests are conducted on individuals manifesting symptoms, with exposure to COVID-19 positive patients, returning overseas Filipino workers as well as frontline workers. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Gatchalian pushes for business loan program to curb joblessness amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday called on the government to carry out a subsidy program that will help curb the rising unemployment rate in the country brought about by the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gatchalian, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, suggested for the government to adopt a subsidy program similar to the Paycheck Protection program of the United States to prevent further lay-offs amid the public health crisis.

He said the Paycheck Protection Program is designed to provide incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

Under this setup, business owners can get full loan forgiveness as an incentive as long as the funds are used for eligible expenses.

This way, the company gets to retain its employees while maintaining its operations.

Gatchalian believes that if this program will be included in the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, dubbed as the Bayanihan Law 2, it will significantly help employees and companies.

“Marami talagang kumpanya na nagda-downsize at sigurado akong mas marami pa ang mawawalan ng trabaho. Tiyak babalik din sila sa gobyerno, sa LGU o sa national government. Hindi na yan kakayanin ng gobyerno. Babalik at babalik sila sa gobyerno para humingi ng suporta,” he said.

“A Paycheck Protection Program-like subsidy will hit two birds with one stone. You secure the tenure of employees and at the same time you generate the economic side,” he added.

The government has implemented the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, which provides a P5,000 to P8,000 wage subsidy to employees through the Social Security System (SSS).

But Gatchalian pointed out that this one-time subsidy does not provide long-term support to employees.

The senator said many Filipinos have lost their jobs after companies opted to downsize their operations to trim their losses as they weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Gatchalian noted that 7.3 million Filipinos are unemployed as of April 2020, an all-time high unemployment rate.

The lawmaker also warned of uncertain labor market recovery after a study by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) revealed a 14% drop in global working hours during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs, based on a 48-hour working week.

The same ILO study projects a decrease in working hours of 4.9% in the second half of the year which is equivalent to the loss of 140 million full-time jobs.

Gatchalian said there is a need for the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs in the country, and it will need an estimated P301 billion to create direct and indirect jobs for those impacted by the COVID-19-induced economic crisis for the rest of the year.

“The government has been calling for Filipinos to help spur the economy by spending more and taking advantage of record-low interest rates. But how can Juan dela Cruz think of spending his hard-earned cash during this crisis when he isn’t sure whether he’d be able to keep his job the following day,” he said.

That’s why I implore the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs of our kababayan so that they’ll be able to contribute in reviving our economy back,” he added.

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