DOH urges employers to strictly implement health protocols in workplaces

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020   •   444

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)

Ombudsman suspends 5 DOH officials for delay in release of frontliner benefits

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 28, 2020

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered a preventive suspension against five Department of Health (DOH) officials for the alleged delays in the release of frontliner benefits.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires signed the order on Tuesday (October 27) to preventively suspend for six months Health Undersecretary Roger Tong-an; Kenneth Ronquillo, Maylene Beltran, Laureano Cruz and Esperanza Carating.

The order is to prevent the officials from potentially tampering with documents or evidence while an investigation on the health department is ongoing.

The investigation was opened in June to look into the alleged delay in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other medical gears, alleged lapses that led to the rising number of health workers infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), inaction to the release of financial benefits for fallen medical workers, as well as confusing and delayed reports of COVID-19 cases in the country.

The DOH previously welcomed the said investigation and assured they will fully cooperate with the appropriate authorities. AAC

Davao City prohibits trick-or-treat, other holiday events amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2020

No community events, parties, and other similar gatherings in all government and private offices and establishments will be held in Davao City especially during the holiday season, the local government announced Thursday.

In an advisory, the city government said the prohibition includes trick-or-treating, which is a traditional event of western countries adopted by some Filipinos during Undas period.

The measure will be implemented after health officials and infectious disease experts noted that conducting office or community events increase the transmission and risk of contracting the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Davao City, just like the rest of the world, continues to face the threat of the pandemic. Cases are still surging and it is feared that more and more deaths will happen if the unnecessary gathering of people is allowed,” the advisory read.

The city government reiterated its appeal to residents to stay home and avoid areas where people converge to avoid exposure and transmission of COVID-19.

It also encouraged residents to celebrate the holidays with their families intimately, use online shopping for groceries, food delivery services, and other contactless services to avoid unnecessary exposure. 

Instead of spending money on a grand party celebration and risk contracting the virus, residents are urged to share grocery items with a family in need, the city government added.

“This year, celebrations will only be truly special and meaningful if you, your family, and everyone in our communities are healthy and safe,” it added. 

The city government likewise advised residents to think twice before leaving their homes to attend parties, dinners, and other events that are not necessary or urgent, and always consider their own families’ safety and other people in the community.

As of Oct. 21, Davao City has recorded a total of 2,851 COVID-19 infections, of which, 671 are active cases. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lucille Lloren)

New COVID-19 cases in PH hits 1,509, total cases reached 362,243

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 21, 2020

The Philippines records a total of 1,509 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with 362,243 total cases, the Department of Health (DOH) reported on Wednesday (October 21).

The DOH also recorded 60 deaths and 911 recoveries. The day’s recorded recoveries brought the total number to 311,506.

Based on DOH COVID-19 Case Bulletin no. 221, 90% of the total daily cases occurred within the recent 14 days, while the top regions in the recent two weeks are in the National Capital Region (NCR) with 320 cases, and Region 4A with 297 cases.

The DOH also added that 41 duplicates were removed from the total case count. Thirty-one recovered cases and three deaths have also been removed from the list.

The University of the Philippines Octa Research Team said there are still areas with high COVID-19 cases since October 11, based on their research. These areas include several areas in the National Capital Region (NCR), Pasig, Makati, Pasay, Mandaluyong, and Marikina.

Meanwhile, DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said 60-70% of the country’s population should be vaccinated against COVID-19 for herd immunity.

“It doesn’t stop there because we would need 60-70% of the population immunized so we can have herd immunity. So when we talk about P12.5 billion that is just covering our population,” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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