Gatchalian backs MECQ extension due to new COVID-19 variant in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021   •   199

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday suggested the extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status in the Metro Manila and nearby provinces following the detection a new coronavirus variant in the Philippines.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Gatchalian said the MECQ should be extended until the end of May or until authorities are sure that the new variant has been contained.

Gatchalian admitted that he was initially pushing for the easing of community quarantine restrictions in the NCR Plus, noting that the economy is “correlated with the quarantine levels that we put in place.”

“For example, if it’s stricter quarantine levels definitely our economy will contract. If we loosen it up, our economy will expand so it’s directly correlated,” he said.

“[M]y initial thought is to go back to GCQ (general community quarantine) because the more we loosen it up, the more we will grow and the more jobs will create,” he added.

However, Gatchalian said he changed his mind when he heard that the coronavirus variant first reported in India has been detected in the Philippines.

“Going back to our experience last February and in March, these variants can be the cause of increased phase of infection in our communities and I recommend to extend the MECQ until the end of the month, until we contain this double variant,” he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday confirmed that the country has recorded two cases of B.1.617 variant from India. The cases were two male overseas Filipino workers who arrived in the country in April from two Middle Eastern countries.

The DOH said the two patients have already been tagged as recovered and released from quarantine after testing negative of the virus. There were also no listed close contacts as they were immediately placed under quarantine after their arrival.

The senator also observed that the modified version of the MECQ implemented by the government has been effective in containing the surge of COVID-19 cases.

He said that under this MECQ version, the government prohibited dine-ins and mass gatherings, which have been identified as “catalyst for infections.”

“That’s why in this new version of ECQ, we allowed almost everything except for gatherings, eating and get togethers and we can see the immediate effect, our reproduction rate went down, the number of cases went down, the attack rate, another matrix that we used went down, but more importantly, the occupancy of our hospitals also went down,” he said.

“[I]n other words, the dining in and gatherings are known as catalysts for infections and we need to keep this sharp for now because of these new variants,” he added.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – collectively tagged as NCR Plus – are under MECQ until May 14.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the new community quarantine restrictions may be announced on Friday after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases have submitted its recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.

Pagbabantay sa PH borders, mas hihigpitan vs COVID-19 Delta variant — DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   June 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Mas hihigpitan pa ang gagawing pagbabantay sa lahat ng border sa bansa, mula sa mga paliparan, pantalan hanggang sa mga boundary ng bawat lugar sa Pilipinas, ayon sa Department of Health (DOH).

Ayon kay Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, naabisuhan na ang lahat ng lokal na pamahalaan para sa paghihigpit sa kani-kanilang mga border upang mapigilan ang pagkalat ng Delta variant, isang uri ng COVID-19 na mas nakakakahawa kumpara sa ibang variant.

“Nasa heightened alert po lahat. Lahat ng local governments were informed, lahat po ng mga regional offices were informed na kailangan bantayan maigi ang Delta Variant across our borders,” ani Vergeire.

Ayon sa opisyal, mas paiigtingin pa ng pamahalaan ang pagpapatupad ng COVID-19 testing at quarantine protocols, at contact tracing pati na ang pagpapalawig sa entry ban sa mga magmumula sa bansang India, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, at Nepal hanggang June 30.

“We are going to uphold the directive of the IATF as well as the Office of the President. This is because we want to prevent further entry of this Delta Variant,” ani Vergeire.

“We cannot have non-uniformity in the implementation of our border control. So iyan po napag-usapan, napagkasunduan, nakausap na rin po ang mga officials, regional directors ng iba’t ibang ahensya last Saturday,” dagdag pa niya.

Ang mas mahigpit na border control sa Pilipinas ay kasunod ng pahayag ng World Health Organization na ang Delta variant na ang dominant variant ng COVID-19 matapos itong mapaulat sa mahigit 80 bansa.

Ang Delta variant ay unang natuklasan sa bansang India.

Sa Pilipinas, 17 na ang kabuuang kaso ng Delta COVID-19 variant matapos itong madagdagan nang magpositibo sa naturang variant ang apat na returning overseas Filipino mula sa South Korea at Saudi Arabia.

Iniulat din ng DOH na 14 na dagdag na kaso ng Alpha variant (United Kingdom), at 21 Beta variant (South Africa) ang naitala sa bansa batay sa ulat ng Philippine Genome Center at ng UP-National Institutes of Health ngayong Lunes.

Ayon sa DOH, lubhang nakababahala kapag lalo pang kumalat sa bansa ang mga variant na ito, lalo na ang Delta variant, dahil mataas ang tiyansang maospital ang isang individwal na kakapitan nito.

“Walang sinabi sa mga ebidensyang nakalap natin, even our experts are saying, walang sinabi na deadly pero sinabi na mas nakakahawa talaga siya,” ani Vergeire.

“Ang delta variant is 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant. So, ibig sabihin po kung ang alpha variant ay nakapanghahawa ng 4-5 tao per every individual infected, ang Delta Variant po can have 8 individual infected sa isang taong may sakit. So ganoon kabilis ang pagkakahawa kapag Delta Variant ang pinag-uusapan,” dagdag pa niya.

Muli ring paalala ng DOH sa publiko na mag-doble ingat at sundin ang ipinatutupad na health protocols kontra COVID-19. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Filipinos are allowed to get vaccinated anywhere in PH — DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   June 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos can get inoculated against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) anywhere in the country under the government’s “no wrong door policy” in its vaccination drive, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

 “Meron ho tayong tinatawag na no wrong door policy. Ibig sabihin, kung ikaw ay nagpunta sa Davao at ikaw ay puwede nang bakunahan, puwede ka bakunahan doon kahit hindi ka taga-Davao,” Health Undersecretary Mari Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

“Hindi po natin sinasara ang ating mga pinto sa mga bakunahan dahil hindi ka taga doon na lugar,” she added.

The health official, however, stressed that the vaccination should be done through appointments and that walk-ins should be discouraged as this tends to result in crowding.

The DOH previously said that local government units may open separate walk-in lanes in their COVID-19 vaccination centers as walk-ins may be used as substitutes for those who are scheduled for inoculation but do no show up on a certain date.

The agency, however, said that the number of walk-ins that would be accommodated per day in jab sites should be limited.

The DOH earlier urged the public to pre-register for the vaccination and get inoculated when it’s their turn.

DOH says surge in COVID-19 cases in Visayas, Mindanao due to ‘multitude of factors’

Robie de Guzman   •   June 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The rise in COVID-19 cases in the Visayas and Mindanao areas could be attributed to a “multitude of factors,” the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

In an online press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have noted some factors that have contributed to the spike in infections in the Visayas and Mindanao areas, including the complacency in enforcing and observing health protocols.

The DOH also observed the clustering of infections in workplaces and prisons in the said areas.

“Lagi po nating sinasabi na pag may tumataas po na kaso sa bawat lugar, we need to look at a multitude of factors because we know that there are these different factors which causes the transmission of the virus,” Vergeire said.

“Meron tayong pang-indibidwal at pang-komunidad na pagpapatupad po natin ng minimum health protocols at ‘pag tiningnan natin there are reports already coming to us from our different regional epidemiological and surveillance units na talagang mukhang nagkaroon ng complacency sa pagpapatupad ng health protocols,” she added.

Vergeire said the presence of coronavirus variants in some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao may also have contributed to the surge.

“Totoo po na meron na tayong na-detect na variants sa iba’t ibang lugar dito sa Visayas and Mindanao and these can also be drivers of the infection but let us not just rely or let us not just say that it’s just because of the variants, there are a multitude of factors,” she said.

“Kailangan po kapag tayo ay tumitingin sa response natin, it’s a continuum. So we will need to address, not just the variants, but also the other forms of response that we are having,” she added.

Data from the DOH showed that active COVID-19 cases in the Visayas stood at 13,313, and 14,426 in Mindanao as of June 20.

The DOH reiterated its call to the public to continue adhering to health protocols mandated by the government to help break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.

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