DOLE urged to include COVID-19 in gov’t compensation program for workers

Robie de Guzman   •   March 24, 2021   •   436

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment to classify COVID-19 as an occupational disease so that workers can avail of insurance and other benefits that are demandable under the Employees Compensation Act.

Hontiveros said that once COVID-19 is declared as a work-related disease, workers will be entitled to medical benefits, compensation for lost income, and even funeral services in the event that an employee succumbs to the disease.

“Workplaces and mass transportation are the new ‘hot spots’ of virus transmission, “ she said in a statement.

“Dapat nang aksyunan ng gobyerno ang panawagan na gawing ‘occupational disease’ ang COVID-19 to ensure that the workers who will contract the disease while at work or in transit will be compensated under the national policy for employment injury benefits,” she added.

The government earlier placed the National Capital Region (NCR) and the four nearby provinces of Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, and Laguna – collectively called NCR Plus – under a general community quarantine bubble to curb the rising COVID-19 cases.

Under the policy which will last until April 4, only essential travel is allowed but public transportation and most workplaces will remain open. Curfew hours and health and safety protocols will also be strictly implemented.

Hontiveros, however, criticized the enforcement of quarantine protocols, which, according to her, is “sorely lacking” in terms of support for workers.

“Pinabalik ang manggagawa sa trabaho pero kulang na kulang ang pag-aalagang ibinibigay ng gobyerno. Huwag natin silang tratuhing parang imortal. Hindi curfew o checkpoints ang kailangang kundi garantisadong proteksyon sakaling mahagip o tamaan sila ng virus,” she said.

Hontiveros also stated that there may be no infection in the workplace but a worker may be infected in transit to and from his workplace. She believes that this should also be compensable.

“Hindi na dapat maging burden pa ng empleyado na patunayang nakuha niya ang virus sa kanyang trabaho. Dahil ang mismong pag-byahe ng mga manggagawa mula sa bahay papasok ng trabaho sakay ng mga pampublikong sasakyan ay work-related sacrifice na ginagawa na ng mga manggagawa,” she added.

The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 677,653 COVID-19 infections after health authorities reported 5,867 additional cases. The latest figure brought the country’s total active cases to 86,200 on Tuesday.

“Hindi pa huli ang lahat para ituwid ang pagkakamali. Huwag lang puro lip service ang ‘excellent’ performance. Kung magpapatuloy ito, itinutulak lang ang mga manggagawa sa bingit ng walang-katapusang pangamba, sakripisyo at pagkagutom,” Hontiveros said.

IATF places Cagayan, Apayao, Benguet back to MECQ due to high COVID-19 cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Northern provinces Cagayan, Apayao, and Benguet have reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) after recording high cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The MECQ status will take effect on May 11 until May 23.

As of May 10, Cagayan has 4,657 cases followed by Benguet with 531 and Apayao with 63.

Business operations in the said areas will be limited according to the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

A liquor ban will be implemented while religious gatherings will only be allowed at 10% capacity.  Entertainment and recreational events also be suspended.

Benguet governor Melchor Diclas reported that majority of the COVID-19 cases in their area are severe. Hospitals in Benguet are also in short supply of respirators.

“Dumadami talaga ang mga pasyente natin. Marami ang namamatay at marami ang nagkakasakit ng critical at serious. Ang respirator natin may nagagamit tayong 13 na respirator. Ang bakante nalang ay dalawa,” he said.

(Our patients are increasing. Many have died and many are in critical or serious condition. We have 13 respirators but there are only two available units left.)

Hospitals in Apayao, meanwhile, are at 80% critical level.  In Cagayan Province, Governor Manuel Mamba said Tuguegarao City’s home quarantine setup is still contributing to the rising cases of COVID-19.

“Hindi magiging epektibo ang MECQ sa Tuguegarao City hangga’t may home quarantine,” he said.

(MECQ in Tuguegarao City will not be effective as long as home quarantine is being implemented .)

Mamba continues to reiterate the need to build isolation facilities in Tuguegarao to accommodate COVID-19 patients. AAC (With reports from Marvin Calas)



Evaluation of EUA application for Sinopharm vax may be completed in less than 21 days – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The evaluation process for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will not take long before it can be granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the Sinopharm vaccine has already been included in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and access to its documents, including inspection reports from the WHO will be faster.

“Useful yung kanyang Emergency Use Listing sa WHO kasi before this, wala pa siyang EUA from a stringent regulatory authority katulad ng mga USFDA ganyan or Europe, Japan… hindi pa siya listed sa mga iyon. Pero yung WHO na emergency use listing that’s equivalent to a stringent regulatory authority,” he said.

“Ang maganda sa WHO kasi very transparent ang documents nyan. Available din siya sa FDA. Lahat ng ni-review nila, maaari naming ma-access kaya hindi tayo masyado mahihirapan sa paghingi ng information,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has started the process of applying for EUA, pending documents about the vaccine product.

The FDA said the process may take less than 21 days once the DOH completes the application process.

“Kapag ganyan na merong WHO EUL, mas mapapabilis iyan. Nakakaya natin iyan usually less than 21 days,” Domingo said.

The FDA also echoed the DOH’s earlier statement that there are no irregularities with the government’s move to file an EUA for a Chinese-made vaccine since they also applied for the EUA of other COVID-19 vaccine brands, such as Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, in order for these vaccines to be delivered to the country.

“Talagang nasa batas and it’s a worldwide practice,” he said. “Based on WHO guidelines, posible naman na gobyerno gusto bumili ng bakuna na walang local manufacturer or representative dito. In those cases, the government itself can get EUA.”

“Hindi naman conflict yun dahil ang EUA ay hindi naman product registration o marketing authorization lang, talagang for emergency use lang ang mga bakuna,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Palace welcomes WHO’s emergency use listing for Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL).

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this development will strengthen the country’s vaccine portfolio.

“We welcome the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization for Sinopharm. This development would strengthen our diversified vaccine portfolio as we continue to work on improving access to safe and effective vaccines, including Sinopharm,” Roque said.

A WHO emergency listing means that a product’s safety and efficacy has been rigorously evaluated. It will also allow the product to be included in the COVAX facility for faster global roll out.

The COVAX facility led by the WHO is a global program that seeks to provide vaccine supply mainly for poor countries.

The emergency use listing will also allow countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The Philippines has so far received more than 7.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

“With the arrival of the bulk of our vaccine orders in the coming months, we are confident that we would be able to speed up our coronavirus vaccination program,” Roque said.

The Department of Health earlier said the emergency use authorization (EUA) application for Sinopharm vaccine is now being processed.

The Food and Drug Administration said the application’s evaluation will not take long as the product is already under the WHO emergency use listing.


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