“Door-to-door” testing helped China control epidemic, says expert

UNTV News   •   March 26, 2020   •   428

As much of the world goes into tighter coronavirus-induced lockdown, China, where the virus outbreak was first reported, is doing the opposite in many areas.

Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, ended two months of lockdown on Wednesday (March 25) across most of the province. Wuhan, which has been the worst-hit city in China, will lift its lockdown on April 8.

Likewise, more and more people are returning to work across the country and some of China’s premier tourist sites, such as the Great Wall have partially re-opened.

It is in this context that two leading experts, one in Hong Kong and one in Beijing, spoke to Reuters this week to discuss their views on China’s strategy in dealing with the outbreak.

“In China, one of the very successful components of their strategy in Wuhan was going into the community, door-to-door, looking for people with symptoms,” said Professor Benjamin John Cowling, a public health and infectious diseases expert at the University of Hong Kong.

“Knocking on the doors. Checking their temperature. Test them. And if they are symptomatic isolate them and quarantine their family members, and that was really a very effective way to find all sorts of people even with mild symptoms,” said Cowling.

Tsinghua University’s Professor Xue Lan is one of China’s leading experts on public policy. He is also a member of the expert committee of National Coordination Mechanism for Controlling COVID-19, which consults for China’s National Health Commission (NHC).

Xue said the key factors in China’s virus management have been “decisive” government policy such as the sudden Wuhan lockdown in late January and also the willingness of the population to cooperate in containing the epidemic. That’s because of their experience of outbreaks like SARS and H1N1 flu as well as a cultural factor, Xue added, which means the Chinese may be more likely to observe strict rules.

“I think that this is perhaps a cultural characteristic of people in East Asia,” Xue said. “People here are more willing to work towards the needs of the group.”

However, he also noted that with the strict stay-home measures, there could be a higher chance of spreading the virus between family members stuck in the same home.

In recent weeks, China has reported a steady fall in new domestically transmitted cases of coronavirus, but a steady stream of new imported cases. On Thursday (March 26) the NHC said that there were 67 new cases reported as of end-Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all involving people arriving from abroad, putting the total accumulated number of confirmed coronavirus cases to date at 81,285. The NHC also reported a total of 3,287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up by six from the previous day.

Such figures along with reports of asymptomatic cases not being included in China’s figures have added to fears domestically that China could be facing a “second wave” of the outbreak.

“We know that if life goes back to normal,” Cowling said, “there will be re-introductions of infections, there will be transmission and there will be a second wave. I’m not sure there’s really a recognition of that so far.”

If there is no big “second wave” of cases soon and current trends of low domestically transmitted cases continue, then China is likely to continue to phase out some of its virus control measures, such as the ubiquitous temperature checks, Xue said. However international travel restrictions are likely to persist until other countries have also got the virus under control, he said.

However, life as we know it may not return to normal, in both the short and long term, Xue said.

“I think from now on our social lives will enter a new normal.”

“Perhaps there will be limitations on those events or occasions with lots of people crowded together. However people should be fine to go about their daily life activities, such as university students returning to campus to have class as normal,” he added. (Reuters)

(Production: Martin Pollard, Irene Wang, Aleksander Solum, Travis Teo)

Gov’t mulls emergency subsidy for middle class families

Marje Pelayo   •   April 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Economic managers are looking for potential sources of funds to help the middle-class families amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the national government may extend support to the middle-class sector but not under the Social Amelioration Program or the cash aid intended for low-income families or the informal sector.

Nograles explained that the list of beneficiaries of the emergency subsidy program was derived from the 15 million poor families identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

The government added three million families from the informal sector to complete the 18 million target beneficiaries of SAP under the newly signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“Naglagay po tayo ng contingency dahil hindi naman malilimitahan sa 15 million (families) iyan (na base sa) 2015 census. Ang ginawa, nagdagdag pa sila ng three million, [We applied a contingency because we couldn’t limit it to 15 million families that was based on the 2015 census. What they did was they added 3-M,]” the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Spokesperson explained.

Based on the current statistics, the Philippines has about 24 million families.

Minus 18 million families, Nograles said, there will be about 6 million middle class families that will be provided with additional cash subsidy.

“We have to define who the middle class is [and up to what extent is being a] middle class,” the official added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III suggests a collaboration of records from the DSWD, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); and the local government units.

“Government assistance should cover ALL those who are affected by the lockdown,” Sotto said in a statement.

Even the middle-income needs help. Nawalan din naman sila ng pagkakitaan, nabawasan din ang kanilang source of income, [They, too, lost their source of livelihood. Their source of income has also been affected],” he added.

Sotto pushed anew for the national ID system which would provide a database that is seen to solve the government’s problem with accounting the exact number of Filipino families.

Though the IATF-EID agrees with Sotto on the matter, the agency said it would be difficult to process a national ID given the current national crisis. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

Cooperation, proper execution of gov’t health interventions: Keys to stopping COVID-19 infections — Expert

Marje Pelayo   •   April 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Experts estimate that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak would reach its peak between the months of April and June this year.

Based on the current statistics, they believe that COVID-19 might infect about 600,000 to 1 million Filipinos if the public will not heed the enhanced community quarantine protocols.

But there are ways to curb the contagion, according to Chief Special Adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa of the Task Force on COVID-19 Crisis.

One of which is the proper execution of the national government’s health interventions.

Herbosa said the Task Force is recommending a ‘gradual lifting of liberties of societies.’

This public measure would help communities recover from the crisis while protecting the public from further infection.

“Siguro wala pa ring pasok para hindi magkahawaan ang mga bata. Siguro ang magkaka- trabaho lang iyong essential industries – pagkain, tubig – iyong mga importanteng industry,” Herbosa explained.

[Perhaps schools should remain suspended to protect students from infection. Only workers of essential industries – food, water or other important industries – would be allowed.]

Unti-unti nilang ire-release para hindi sisipa ang pagkalat kapag ibinalik mo agad mass transport ng walang adjustment. Siguro ang mangyayari diyan let’s say sa MRT, LRT limitado ang sasakay,” he added.

[Mass transport may be released gradually or on certain adjustments to prevent a sudden spike in infection. It could be, let’s say, limited number of MRT and LRT passengers.]

The official recognized the positive contribution of the enhanced community quarantine in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

But the success of the national government’s action against the deadly disease will only be possible if each member of the community will understand the measures and cooperate with authorities. MNP (with details from Aiko Miguel)

UK PM Johnson ‘stable’ in intensive care – Raab

UNTV News   •   April 8, 2020

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Tuesday (April 7) he was confident that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in intensive care with a coronavirus infection, would pull through because “he’s a fighter”.

“He remained stable overnight. He’s receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any assistance. He has not required any mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support,” Raab told a daily news conference.

Johnson’s personal battle with the virus has shaken the government just as the United Kingdom, now in its third week of virtual lockdown, enters what scientists say will be the deadliest phase of its coronavirus epidemic, which has already killed at least 6,159 people.

Johnson, 55, was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital, across the River Thames from parliament, late on Sunday after suffering symptoms, including a fever and a cough, for more than 10 days.

But his condition rapidly deteriorated, and he was moved on Monday to an intensive care unit, where the most serious cases are treated, in case he needed to be put on a ventilator.

“He remains in good spirits and … his progress continues to be monitored in critical care,” Raab said. (Reuters)

(Production: Paul Warren, Aiden Nulty)

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