California shuts down again as U.S. coronavirus crisis expands

UNTV News   •   July 14, 2020   •   528

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday (July 13) ordered a massive retrenchment of the state’s reopening on Monday, shutting bars and banning indoor restaurant dining statewide and closing churches, gyms, and hair salons in hardest-hit counties.

Newsom’s move, which undoes weeks of reopening efforts in parts of the most populous U.S. state, comes as several rural counties are experiencing strains to their hospital systems, while cases mount in large metropolitan areas including Los Angeles and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The surge in cases has also prompted two of California’s largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, to announce that they will be online only in the new term. In addition, neighboring Oregon is mandating the use of protective masks outdoors as local leaders around the United States scramble to curb a rising number of coronavirus cases nationwide.

The number of people hospitalized in California with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has risen by 28% over the past two weeks, with a 20% increase in those needing intensive care, Newsom said at a conference call with reporters in the state capital of Sacramento.

Statewide, 6,485 patients were hospitalized with coronavirus as of Sunday, with 1,833 of them requiring intensive care, according to state data. (Reuters)

PAL warns passengers vs. traveling with fake COVID-19 test results

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has reminded passengers to secure authentic COVID-19 test results from legitimate medical providers, warning that using fraudulent ones may land them in jail.

PAL issued the reminder after it prevented the boarding of at least 15 individuals who presented fake COVID-19 test results at airport check-in counters.

In a statement, PAL said the passengers caught with falsified test results in Manila were bound for Cotabato, Dipolog, and Zamboanga.

They have been turned over to the Philippine National Police (PNP), the airline company said.

Most of the apprehended passengers were referred for an inquest at the city prosecutor’s office, while others have been isolated at quarantine facilities pending their real swab test results.

“The police said they will be charged with falsification of public documents and violation of RA 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act,” the airline said.

“If found guilty, they may each face penalties of up to ₱50,000 or imprisonment for one to six months,” it added.

RT-PCR or antigen COVID-19 test results are required for travel to ensure that no virus transmission will occur in flights and in their destinations.

“Safe travel is always the paramount concern, and airlines and authorities are vigilant in not accepting travelers holding fake RT-PCR or Antigen test results, for everybody’s protection,” PAL said.

Gatchalian opposes calls for nationwide academic break amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday expressed disagreement with proposals to implement a nationwide academic break amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the decision for such measure should come from basic education and higher education institutions.

In a statement, Gatchalian said poor and vulnerable learners will only be left behind due to additional disruptions that the nationwide academic break will bring.

He also said that prolonged school closures may result in learning loss, widening inequalities, and increased exposure to violence, among others.

“I don’t agree with the call to implement a nationwide academic break. Iba-iba naman ang quarantine qualification at may mga lugar na walang lockdown. Mahirap naman pong mag-academic freeze sa isang lugar na walang kaso ng COVID-19. Kaya hindi pwede itong academic freeze para sa pangkalahatan dahil iba-iba ang sitwasyon,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education.

“Sa basic education, isang taon nang hindi nagpupunta sa mga eskwelahan ang mga bata at kapag sila ay patuloy na bibigyan ng break at hindi sila mag-aaral, talagang makakalimutan na nila ang kanilang pinag-aralan,” he added.

The senator pointed out that in Isabela, which is currently under general community quarantine, the Department of Education (DepEd) suspended the distribution and retrieval of self-learning modules and other face-to-face activities after five DepEd personnel recently died due to COVID-19.

Teachers in the division, however, are expected to remotely continue their follow-ups and monitoring of learners, according to Gatchalian.

Meanwhile, some colleges and universities in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – called ‘NCR Plus’ – already suspended classes or implemented academic ease measures due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. These include the University of Santo Tomas, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Cavite State University, and De La Salle University.

While the NCR Plus is now under modified enhanced community quarantine until the end of the month, Gatchalian pointed out that most of the country is under general community quarantine and modified general community quarantine, where the implementation of distance or flexible learning can still continue.

 

PH, US defense chiefs tackle West Philippine Sea situation, regional security issues

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Sunday (April 11) discussed the situation in the West Philippine Sea and some measures to deepen the defense cooperation of two countries amid recent tensions in the contested waters.

In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the defense chiefs of the two nations held a telephone conference to talk about the situation in the West Philippine Sea and recent developments in regional security.

DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said that the Philippines is “keeping all options open” but said they are closely coordinating with the United States government on the matter.

Andolong also said that both parties are “committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states’ inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively.”

The United States and the Philippines signed the mutual defense treaty in 1951.

In a separate statement, Austin said he spoke with his counterpart to reaffirm their commitment to the alliance between the US and the Philippines.

“I had a productive call with SND @del_lorenzana to discuss challenges in the South China Sea and the need for unity in ensuring security and stability in the region. #FreeandopenIndoPacific,” he said.

The DND said both defense chiefs “are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was canceled last year.”

Austin also reiterated the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations and “hopes that it would be continued.”

“Secretary Lorenzana committed to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval lies with him,” the DND said.

Also during the phone conversation, Lorenzana sought Austin’s assistance to speed up the delivery of Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine doses that were procured by the Philippine government.

“To which, Secretary Austin replied that he would look into the issue and bring it to the attention of the office concerned,” the DND said.

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