Gov’t eyes possible return of face shield policy amid Omicron variant threat

Maris Federez   •   November 29, 2021   •   257

MANILA, Philippines — The national government is mulling over the possibility of bringing back the implementation of the face shield policy following the threats from the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron (B1.1.529), said vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr.

Galvez made the announcement on Sunday (November 28) after the detection of the Omicron variant in South Africa and other European countries, causing global panic and the tightening of restrictions.

“We will look at the possibility. ‘Yan ang inaano ni (Health) Sec (Francisco) Duque. He is pro na maibalik ang any protections na pwede natin gamitin kasi some people from WHO (World Health Organization) also believe that kaya nagkaroon ng magandang result sa Delta as to others because of the protection of face shield,” said Galvez during a virtual presser with reporters.

Galvez also said that no case of Omicron variant, which is considered to be more contagious, has been reported in the country as of yet.

President Rodrigo Duterte had allowed face shields to be optional for Alert Level 3, 2, and 1 but it is still required for Alert level 5 areas. —/mbmf

1,749 commuters attempted to ride trains sans proof on first day of ‘no vax, no ride policy – DOTr

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday reported that a total of 1,749 commuters attempted to take rail lines without showing proof of their COVID-19 immunization during the first day of the implementation of the “no vaccination, no ride” policy in Metro Manila.

In a statement, the DOTr said the breakdown of commuters who tried to board trains are as follows:

  • Philippine National Railways: 8
  • MRT-3: 1,204
  • LRT-2: 136
  • LRT-1: 401

The DOTr said the first day of the implementation of the policy was “generally peaceful.”

The Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) – the agencies primarily responsible for enforcing the policy in the road sector – said the first day of the policy’s implementation saw enforcers comprehensively explaining the guidelines of the DOTr order to commuters.

“According to reports from our men on the ground, most of the passengers were prepared for the policy. They voluntarily handed over their vaccination cards to our enforcers for thorough inspection and verification before boarding public utility vehicles (PUVs),” said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

“Since this is just the first day of the policy’s implementation, our enforcers were instructed to just issue the violators warnings instead of outrightly apprehending them for non-compliance,” said DOTr Assistant Secretary for Road and Infrastructure Mark Steven Pastor.

“These persons were later properly turned over to their respective local government units (LGUs) for assistance,” added Pastor.

The “no vaccination, no ride” policy was implemented on Monday, January 17, 2022, in a bid to help curb the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 amid a recent spike in the number of infections in Metro Manila.

Tugade said the department’s “no vaccination, no ride” aims to also protect the unvaccinated from getting severe COVID-19 infections.

The policy will be in effect while a COVID-19 Alert Level 3 level or higher remains hoisted in the NCR as to be determined by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF).

Meanwhile, exempted from the “no vaccination, no ride” policy are the following:

  • Persons with medical conditions that prevent their full COVID-19 vaccination as shown by a duly-signed medical certificate with the name and contact details of their doctor.
  • Persons who will buy essential goods and services, such as but not limited to food, water, medicine, medical devices, public utilities, energy, work, and medical and dental necessities, as shown by a duly issued barangay health pass or other proof to justify travel.

Galvez: Nearly 7 million Filipino minors vaccinated vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly 7 million minors in the Philippines have been inoculated against COVID-19 in the ongoing vaccination campaign, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Galvez said 6.88 million or 54 percent of children aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus disease.

“I am happy to report na maganda po ang ating ongoing vaccination for minors at napakataas po ng antas ng public acceptance. Lalo na po noong National Vaccination Day nagdo-dominate po ang mga minors na talagang pumunta po sa mga vaccination site,” he told the president.

“Sa ngayon po ay may 8.49 million or 67 percent na po ang naka-receive ng first dose and 6.88 million or 54 percent na po ang fully vaccinated sa ating aged 12 to 17 years old,” he added.

With the current vaccination output, Galvez expressed optimism that the immunization campaign for the said age group will be completed by March.

“Sa assessment po namin na kung magtuloy-tuloy ang magandang output natin at kaya po nating matapos ang pagbabakuna ng kabataan edad 12 hanggang 17 anyos by end of March at makapagsimula po tayo ng boosters by April pagka po napayagan po tayo ng mga experts,” he said.

Galvez, who is also chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19, said the government will continue to pursue the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 as they expect more supply of vaccines formulated by Pfizer-BioNTech for this age bracket to arrive in the country in the coming weeks.

He also disclosed that Chinese drug firm Sinovac has applied for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine shots for kids aged 3 to 17 in the country. He said this brand could be used as a source of alternative supply once approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.

Data presented by Galvez showed that at least 55.1 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while more than 4.7 million Filipinos have taken their booster shots.

DepEd eyes expansion of in-person classes by February

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) has recommended the “progressive expansion” of face-to-face classes in areas under COVID-19 Alert Levels 1 and 2 starting next month.

During a pre-taped meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired on Monday night, Education Secretary Leonor Briones explained that the expansion of the pilot physical classes will be progressive, which means that only select schools in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 will be allowed to resume classes.

“Hindi ‘yung lahat-lahat sabay-sabay. Kung ang isang lugar ay Alert Level 1 and 2, selective, puwedeng mag-expand ng face-to-face,” Briones said.

The DepEd chief said the expansion of face-to-face classes will start in February, with the concurrence of the local government units (LGU) and parents’ consent.

“Iyong framework ng shared responsibility, patuloy. Iyong pag-concur ng LGUs, alam na alam namin ito, conscious kami at saka parents’ consent, requirement pa rin, Mr. President. Hindi kami mag-e-expand ng basta-basta na hindi kami mangangatok sa local governments at saka hindi namin makuha iyong written consent ng mga parents,” Briones said in her report to the president.

“Iyon ang aming proposal, Mr. President. February ang pag-e-expand pero maingat pa rin, taking into consideration the advice of the Department of Health, the LGUs, as well as now the Department of Justice,” she added.

Briones reiterated that only fully vaccinated teachers and non-teaching personnel will be allowed to join the face-to-face classes. Participation of vaccinated students will also be preferred.

“Ang sabi namin, only vaccinated teachers and non-teaching personnel na vaccinated will participate kung tayo ay mag-implement ng faceto-face. At saka ‘yung participation ng vaccinated students, kasi in-announce na ni (vaccine czar) Secretary (Carlito) Galvez na by March, by April, mag-umpisa na tayo sa mga bata, iyon preferred natin ‘yun. So iyon ang aming proposal, Mr. President,” she said.

Briones said 278 schools with about 15,000 students participated in the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes last year.

Around 28 schools from Metro Manila joined the program last December but its resumption was suspended earlier this January due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Other regions with high coronavirus infections also suspended limited in-person classes but classes in areas under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 have continued.

The DepEd earlier allowed schools and local education offices to suspend classes for up to two weeks over rising COVID-19 cases.

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