DOH recommends inclusion of UAE in travel ban following detection of COVID-19 UK variant in Phl

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021   •   161

MANILA, Philippines — Experts are looking into how the 29-year-old real estate agent who returned from a business trip in Dubai contracted the coronavirus disease UK variant.

What’s confirmed, according to the Department of Health (DOH), was that the man departed from the Philippines negative of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and arrived in Dubai negative of the virus as well.

“On December 25, the couple had their RT-PCR test done here in the country and it yielded negative results. They went to Dubai and upon entry to Dubai they were swabbed again and the results were also negative,” explained Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The man and his partner returned to the Philippines on January 7 without showing any symptoms of the disease.

Experts are currently examining the possible origin of the UK variant detected in his samples.

“Maraming factors that we need to consider like the number of days from the time that they left the Philippines until they reached Dubai. Ano ba ang naging activities sa Dubai? We were provided with this information by the individual himself who tested positive for this variant. Pinag-aaralan pa iyan,” Vergeire said.

Following this, the DOH submitted its recommendation to the Office of the President to include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the list of countries with existing travel ban to intensify border control and curb the possible spread of the new COVID-19 variant in the country.

“We are taking proactive stance. Iyon po ang rekomendasyon ng ating mga eksperto para we can buy time. Ito po ang sinasabi natin so that we can analyze the case well and that they determine if there are still other individuals who are affected by this variant and also we can prepare our system para kung may makita pang tayong iba o kaya ay magtataas ang kaso – we are ready,” Vergeire noted.

The DOH said around 58 percent of the man’s close contacts have been reached, while the others who still cannot be contacted may have provided a wrong number or refused to accept their call.

The patient is now in isolation and is being treated for pneumonia. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Kalibo Airport on lockdown until Jan. 21

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines The Kalibo International Airport is currently under a three-day lockdown after several of its personnel tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The airport is on lockdown from January 19 to 21 to give way to disinfection after 11 employees were confirmed to have contracted the viral respiratory disease last week.

The lockdown includes offices outside the passenger terminal building but within the airport complex, particularly the Administrative Office of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Aerodome Rescue Fire Fighting station, and the Philippine Airlines ticketing office.

Airport operations will resume on Friday, January 22.

400K OFWs sent home during pandemic — DOLE

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2021

Manila, Philippines — Over 400,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been sent home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

As of January 16, the Labor Department records a total of 410,211 repatriates who have undergone quarantine and were cleared of COVID-19.

“After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation, and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families,” DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

The latest figures from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration showed that 8,273 OFWs were transported to their respective provinces last week.

An estimate of 60,000 to 80,000 more OFWs are expected to be repatriated this year, according to reports from the various Philippine Overseas Labor Offices of DOLE. AAC

WHO laments world’s poorest countries might get left behind in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) has lamented that distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to the “world’s poorest countries” could face delays.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said richer countries and several private companies are buying up all the available vaccines. This also causes a spike in prices of COVID-19 vaccines.

“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure—and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” he said.

Ghebreyesus reported that 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries while only 25 have been administered in one lowest-income country.

“The situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries where the profits are highest, rather than submitting full dossiers to WHO,” he noted.

WHO previously promised free COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries enlisted in the COVAX facility, which includes the Philippines.

The WHO Director General also expressed concerns that the pandemic may last longer if there is no coordination in the vaccine distribution across the globe.

“Not only does this ‘me-first’ approach leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it’s also self-defeating. Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering,” he said. AAC (with reports from Mirasol Abogadil)

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