Duterte assures stronger gov’t response to COVID-19 crisis with new special powers

Marje Pelayo   •   March 25, 2020   •   781

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte expressed gratitude to Congress for granting the Executive branch special powers to strengthen the national government’s response to the current crisis on coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

On Wednesday (March 23), President Duterte signed into law the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act which will grant him authority to reallocate government savings to programs related to combating COVID-19.

“To the members of both houses of Congress who sponsored and voted for this measure, I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests,” the President said.

“Finally, the Executive Department can move, decide and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis,” he added.

Under the new measure, the national government will allocate emergency monthly subsidy for the 18 million informal sector families in the country on the duration of the crisis.

Likewise, there will be ‘COVID-19 special risk allowance’ for all public health workers on top of their hazard duty pay, compensation for public and private health workers who contacted the disease while on duty, and for the relatives of health workers who died of COVID-19.

“Supplies of food, water and other essentials will be provided to you throughout this ordeal,” the Chief Executive stressed.

“Financial assistance will also be extended especially to those in the margins and the vulnerable groups,” he added.

Meanwhile, concerned agencies like the Health, National Defense, the Interior and Local Government and the Social Welfare and Development Departments are directed to collaborate for the implementation of the government’s national action plan against COVID-19.

Thus, the Chief Executive called for cooperation from all government employees on the matter.

“To my fellow public servants, let us set aside our differences and work in solidarity to overcome this pandemic. We only have one common enemy and that is COVID-19,” the President appealed.

“Our transparency, integrity, accountability and responsiveness are needed and I expect all of you to exercise all these in safeguarding our fellow Filipinos,” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Manila LGU buys 2,000 remdesivir vials for COVID-19 patients

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 13, 2020

The Manila City government has acquired 2,000 remdesivir vials to treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Thursday (August 13) announced that the local government spent P13 million to purchase the vials from Mylan, the pharmaceutical firm that created remdesivir.

The mayor said the initiative aims to strengthen the city’s efforts to provide better medical treatment for COVID-19 patients confined in Manila’s district hospitals.

“Kung saka-sakali kakailanganin pa, bibili pa po tayo, mapangalagaan lang namin kayo, mapataas lang namin ang probabilidad na kapag kayo ay na-infect ng COVID-19, kayo ay mag-recover,” Domagoso said.

Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan also stressed that remdesivir will only be used in hospitals and added that the medication is not available over-the-counter.

“Sa ospital lang po ito ginagamit, hindi po ito sa bahay ginagamit, para po ito sa atin pong mga pasyente na mayroong mild, moderate or severe na mga sintomas,” Lacuna-Pangan said.

In a statement, the local government said the antiviral medication has been approved for use at the city’s six district hospitals by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration. AAC

Mandatory use of face shield in workplaces starts August 15 — DOLE

Marje Pelayo   •   August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Employees commuting to work will have to get used to wearing face shields not only in public transport but even inside their workplaces.

Following the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) order of mandatory use of face shield in public transport in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has ordered similar requirements in workplaces starting August 15, regardless of whatever community quarantine measure is in effect.

Such a measure is for added protection against coronavirus disease (COVID-19), DOLE said. 

According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, employees need not worry of the expenses as employers will be the one to provide them with a face shield. 

“This face shield is intended to prevent the transmission of the virus inside the workplaces kasi may findings ang Department of Health at saka  iyong mga medical expert na iyong contamination o iyong transmission hindi lang through nose or the mouth (following DOH’s findings and experts’ advise that the contamination or transmission does not only go through nose or the mouth),” Bello said.

Kasama rin ang tenga at ang mata, kaya para matiyak natin na walang transmission, walang hawahan ay bigyan na natin ang mga workers ng protective faceshield (It could be through the ears and eyes. To ensure that no transmission will occur, let us give our workers protective shields),” he added.

Bello said employers who will go against the order could face administrative liability which incurs warning or penalty depending on circumstances.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) agrees with the directive.

Okay lang siguro iyon kasi mura lang naman saka reusable (I think that’s okay. It doesn’t cost that much and it’s reusable), so I think we’ll just encourage our [members] to comply, ” said ECOP President Sergio Ortiz.

Aside from mandatory face shield, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guideline restricts dining in groups and smoking in common areas of the building.

The Department of Health (DOH) has already set the suggested retail price (SRP) for each piece of face shield at P26 to P50 only.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said there is no reason to hoard as the country has enough supply of the protective equipment.

“Kasi marami tayong local manufacturers nito. Iyong mga nagrere-purpose from other products […] nagstart na gumawa ng face mask, PPEs, face shield. So marami tayong suplay hindi tayo mauubusan (We have local manufacturers. Those who are repurposing their production lines have started making face masks, PPEs, face shields. So we have enough supply. We won’t run out of [protective equipment]),” assured DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo. MNP (with details from Joan Nano)

FDA clarifies: Chinese medicine Lian Hua Qin Weng not registered as COVID-19 drug in PH

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 13, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has clarified that the traditional Chinese medicine, Lian Hua Qin Weng, is not registered in the Philippines as a product for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Although Lian Hua Qin Weng is used as a COVID-19 treatment in China and other countries, it is not registered for the same purpose in the Philippines, according to FDA Director General Eric Domingo.

“Dito sa Pilipinas approved natin siya as traditional-use herbal product (Here in the Philippines, it is approved as traditional-use herbal product) that helps remove toxins, invasion of the lungs including symptoms such as fever, cold, muscle soreness, stuffy and runny nose. Kasi iyong mga traditional medicines ang tini-treat niyan symptoms, alleviate symptoms. Hindi talaga siya directed to one particular illness, (Because these traditional medicines treat or alleviate symptoms. It is not really directed to one particular illness),” he said.

On Wednesday (August 12), the Chinese Embassy released a statement describing Lian Hua Qin Weng as a treatment for moderate and mild cases of COVID-19 in China.

However, in the Philippines, Domingo said the medicine still needs to undergo clinical trials and cannot be labeled as a treatment for COVID-19.

Dito sa atin ang traditional medicine hindi natin siya ina-approve for particular illnesses […] hindi siya pwedeng i-label sa atin as treatment for COVID-19. Hindi siya pwedeng ibenta as that dito sa Pilipinas, (Here, traditional medicine is not approved for particular illnesses […] we cannot label it as treatment for COVID-19. It cannot be sold here in the Philippines as such),” he added.

The FDA official also explained that the medicine is a prescription drug and will not be sold over-the-counter. The FDA also warned the public not to buy Lian Hua Qin Weng online.

“Kailangan magpatingin sa doctor. Mag-reseta at pwede lang siyang ibenta sa mga licensed pharmacies or licensed retail outlets, (One needs to consult a doctor. A prescription is needed and the medicine can only be sold at licensed pharmacies or licensed retail outlets)” Domingo said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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