Drilon, Lacson urge DOH to drop proposed P11.7-B fund for contact tracing, adopt other effective solutions

Robie de Guzman   •   June 3, 2020   •   173

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called on the Department of Health (DOH) to be resourceful in its contact tracing and to drop its proposed P11.7 billion funding for the hiring of 130,000 individuals for the project.

In a statement on Tuesday, Drilon said government agencies should exercise prudent judgment in the use of public funds in consideration of the country’s growing budget deficit due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

“Mag-ingat po tayo sa paggasta ng pera ng taumbayan lalo sa panahon ng krisis,” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Given the increasing budget deficit, which is projected to reach P1.56 trillion or 8.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product this year, this P11.7 billion should better be put to good use,” he added.

Drilon also backed Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s call to the DOH to divert the fund for contact tracing to the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

He said the health agency should stop insisting on its plan when it can find other ways “to do contact tracing without hurting the government coffers.”

The senator reiterated his proposal for the DOH to tap around 400,000 barangay health workers and parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to carry out contact tracing to save the government huge amount of money.

“Since they are already organized, they can be quickly mobilized as contact tracers,” he said.

“Our objective to prevent the virus from spreading is based on our ability to efficiently identify the infected and notify those he or she has made contact with. Hence, contact tracing is a must and should never be neglected,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson urged the DOH to adopt cheap, yet effective contact tracing solutions of local government units (LGU).

He cited for example the LGU of Carmona, Cavite which developed an app that can track users’ location history using a mobile phone’s GPS. It also allows uses to log interactions with other people and do self-assessment if they experience symptoms.

“In just a few days of implementation, the local government has already signed up 42,000 out of the municipality’s 97,557 residents,” Lacson said.

“For those without smartphones, the local government’s barangay and police personnel can input the information for them,” he added.

The senator also cited Baguio City’s contact tracing scheme, which relies on the geographical information system platform to plot the areas where possible COVID-19 carriers live

“With these technologies, we can potentially save P11.7 billion being asked by the Department of Health for contact tracers. I share Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s sentiment that there are more practical uses for the amount,” he said, noting that the budget could be used for livelihood programs for those severely affected by community quarantine triggered by the COVID-19 crisis.

The DOH earlier said it is planning to hire more than 95,000 contact tracers to meet the World Health Organization’s recommended ratio of one tracer in every 800 people.

The proposed fund will be used to hire these contact tracers for three months.

Navotas to undergo 14-day lockdown due to surge in COVID-19 cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 13, 2020

Navotas City will be placed under a 14-day lockdown due to the rising cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco confirmed what has been floating on social media regarding the lockdown, although he added that he is still yet to sign the directive.

Based on the report of City Health officials on Sunday (July 12), there are 931 confirmed cases in the city.

Tiangco lamented that despite the rising cases, residents continue to leave their houses irresponsibly. He also said that several children are playing outside without wearing face masks.

Barangay NBBS Dagat-dagatan has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city.

Barangay Chairperson Zenaida Tibulan said most of the residents thought there is less danger when community quarantine eased.

Lahat halos lumalabas na noong nagkaroon ng GCQ parang pakiramdam nila natapos na ang problema. Sobra lang mahirap talaga para masasabi nating ma-control ang mga tao at mga bata na lumabas (Almost everyone went outside when GCQ was implemented, they thought the problem is over. It is really difficult to control residents and children not to leave their houses),” she said.

Mayor Tiangco said he is still waiting for the augmentation force he requested from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to begin the implementation of the lockdown in the city. –AAC (with reports from Dante Amento).

Phl Red Cross opens convalescent plasma center in Manila to help fight COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Monday said it has opened its convalescent plasma center in the Philippine capital to help in the fight against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The PRC said its convalescent plasma bank was opened at its National Blood Center in Port Area and has started operations Monday.

In a statement, PRC chairman Senator Richard Gordon said the facility aims to help COVID-19 patients after some medical experts attested to the therapy’s effectiveness.

“Pinilit naming magkaroon ng convalescent plasma center para mabigyan ng pag-asa ang mga kababayan natin na may COVID,” he said as he noted that 9 out 10 patients who underwent the therapy have recovered from the disease.

Convalescent plasma therapy involves the extraction of blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to be transfused to a patient who is still battling the disease. Blood plasma is expected to contain antibodies which will help recipients fight off the infection.

Gordon said the center is open for COVID-19 survivors who wish to donate blood plasma to the PRC.

COVID-19 survivors between the ages of 18 and 65 would have to undergo physical and medical to see if they are qualified to donate blood plasma.

To date, the Philippines has recorded a total of 57,006 COVID-19 cases. Of these patients, 20,371 have recovered while 1,599 died from the disease.

Burial for COVID-19 victims allowed but should be done within 12 hours—DOH

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 13, 2020

Burial for victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is allowed but should be done within 12 hours, according to the guidelines implemented by the Department of Health (DOH).

“We are still following our Code on Sanitation dito sa ating bansa and ang Law for Notifiable Diseases. Nakalagay dito na ang isang pasyenteng mamamatay sa infectious disease, kailangan within 12 hours mailibing natin, (We are still following our Code on Sanitation and Law for Notifiable Disease in our country. It is stated that a patient who succumbed to an infectious disease should be buried within 12 hours),” according to the statement of DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The protocols for the burial of COVID-19 victims is based on the Department Circular No. 0067 released in February.

Vergeire also said the casket should be double sealed and should not be reopened once it is closed. She added that buried remains of patients infected with the novel coronavirus shall not be exhumed for whatever reason.

The DOH said they are aware of the increasing number of COVID-19 deaths and the long queues in crematoriums. There are also reports of dwindling supply of urns. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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