DOH reports setting up of quarantine facilities in some detention centers vs spread of COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   May 1, 2020   •   589

The NBP COVID-19 Quarantine area (Site Harry), was further configured to be ready to accommodate more patients if need be during this period of COVID-19 pandemic. | BuCor

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said that quarantine centers have been installed in some detention facilities in the country to prevent the spread and manage the cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among persons deprived of liberty (PDL).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are closely working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in building isolation facilities for probable and suspect coronavirus cases inside detention facilities such as the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“ICRC has installed a 110-bed capacity quarantine facility in the medium-security New Bilibid Prison. Multi-disciplinary technical support has likewise been supplied to the Correctional Institute for Women as an emergency response to its confirmed cases detected recently,” Duque said in a statement.

The Health chief added that the ICRC is also assisting the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in setting up temporary isolation centers for COVID-19 positive PDLs who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms.

“A 48-bed quarantine facility in the Quezon City Jail in Payatas is now fully operational with 40 admitted detainees,” the DOH said.

“It is being expanded to 200 beds and will open shortly in collaboration with BJMP,” it added.

The health department also reported that a 40-bed quarantine facility at the New San Fernando District Jail and an 80-bed quarantine facility at the Quezon District Jail in Pagbilao, Lucena City are likewise being prepared.

“Such isolation centers were set-up with separate areas for patients and sleeping quarters for staff, electricity, water, cots, and basic furnishings,” it said.

“The staff were also furnished with medical equipment, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and tablet devices to facilitate contact between patients and their relatives,” it added.

Training on infection prevention and control, and management of the dead based on DOH and WHO guidelines were also provided.

Aside from the ICRC, the Health chief said they are also coordinating with the Department of Justice, and the World Health Organization for the conduct of an initial assessment, investigation and management of cases at the Correctional Institution for Women-Bureau of Corrections and the NBP.

This is to ensure that “infection control measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in penal and correctional facilities.”

Duque said that other closed-setting facilities such as orphanages, and homes for the aged will also be monitored with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“Multi-sectoral efforts are ramped up to support all vulnerable areas to stem this pandemic. In all closed-setting facilities, a single case of an asymptomatic positive COVID-19 case can be a disaster,” he said.

The measure comes after more than 200 detainees and personnel at three city jails in the country were reported to have contracted the viral respiratory disease.

FDA confirms Sinovac submitted application for independent clinical trial

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed Sinovac, a China-based biopharmaceutical company, had submitted its application to conduct independent clinical trials in the country.

FDA Director-General Usec. Eric Domingo, however, said Sinovac has yet to submit other documents for the agency to process its application.

“That is undergoing regulatory evaluation, ganoon din iyong Ethics Board Evaluation niya—tuloy-tuloy po iyon (this also includes its Ethics Board Evaluation, it is ongoing), he said.

Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said vaccine experts panel also approved Sinovac in their preliminary review.

Kapag na complete na iyong requirements at nabigyan na sila ng approval then maari na pong mag umpisa (Once the requirements are complete and they received an approval, clinical trials can begin), she said.

Sinovac is among the three vaccine manufacturers that submitted their application to vaccine experts. -AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Tourist departures remain low despite lifting of travel restrictions – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The number of departing Filipino tourists has yet to pick up despite the easing of departure restrictions and allowing non-essential outbound travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Thursday.

The BI said only 95 out of a total of 1,172 Filipinos departed the country under a tourist visa as of Wednesday, slightly higher than the 64 who left the same day last week when only essential travel was allowed.

“It could mean that Filipinos still feel hesitant to travel internationally during the pandemic,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

Morente, however, expects the number to increase during the holiday season.

The BI chief also stressed that arrival restrictions remain in place.

“We are monitoring any policy change set by the IATF (Inter-Agency Tas Force) and the Office of the President, and we are ready to implement these as they may deem fit,” he said.

The IATF earlier said non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos will be allowed starting Oct. 21 following certain requirements.

These requirements include the submission of confirmed roundtrip tickets, and adequate travel and health insurance. Departing tourists should also execute a declaration acknowledging risks involved in traveling and must present negative antigen test result taken within 24 hours before their departure.

Currently, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children are allowed to enter the country holding tourist visas. Restrictions likewise allow foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, foreign parent of minor Filipinos, and foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs to enter the country.

Those who are eligible to enter are required to secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates, prior to their arrival.

Apart from said categories, accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas are also allowed.

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DTI emphasizes on health protocols, strong Internet when inside malls

Marje Pelayo   •   October 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A surge of shoppers is being anticipated in malls now that the holiday season is approaching.

Recently, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has allowed the conduct of promotional activities or sales events as malls always do in the past before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, however, reminds the public of the strict implementation of health protocols in commercial establishments and to follow the so-called ‘7 Commandments’ – such as wearing of face masks and face shields, sanitation with alcohol or regular handwashing, observing proper physical distance and the ‘no talking and no eating’ rule while walking or roaming around the mall premises.

“Kahit nga minsan less than one meter ang tabi natin sa bawat isa kung tayo’y hindi nagsasalita, hindi kumakain, hindi nagtatanggal ng mask at face shield, may frequent alcohol tayo o hugas, napo-proteksyonan pa rin tayo [Even if we are less than one meter apart, if there’s no talking, eating going on, none of us is taking off his mask or face shield, we do frequent alcohol sanitation or handwashing, we can be protected],” Lopez explained in a short interview with UNTV.

On the part of mall operators, they are required to deploy marshals who will regularly monitor mall goers to ensure that all health protocols are properly observed.

Also, mall establishments must maintain proper ventilation and temperature. 

Lopez stressed that Internet connection must be strong as this will help in the government’s contact tracing efforts against potential transmission of COVID-19.

Kasi kailangan din ang mga WiFi pagdating sa mga contact tracing app/mobile apps na pinapagamit natin [WiFi connection is necessary for the contact tracing app/mobile apps that we are requiring them to us],” Lopez noted.

There is no time limit on the public’s stay inside malls; however, the DTI advises mall-goers to plan ahead and immediately accomplish what needs to be accomplished when shopping.

When dining at restaurants, observe proper social distancing, the official said.

“Magkakalayo, nandoon pa rin ang requirement natin na iyon at hindi pwede iyong tapatan, except kung merong physical barrier o iyong clear glass o acrylic fiber glass [Keep distance, that requirement stays and we do not allow sitting directly face to face unless there is a physical barrier in between like clear glass or acrylic fiberglass], Lopez added.

To date, DTI has not received any report yet of COVID-19 transmission inside malls because of the strict implementation of health protocols. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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