Health workers, not cops, will lead transfer of COVID cases to quarantine facilities, DILG clarifies

Robie de Guzman   •   July 15, 2020   •   240

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday clarified that it will be local health workers who will lead in the search and transfer to government quarantine facilities of suspected or COVID-positive cases who cannot comply with the minimum requirements of home quarantine.

In a statement, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said police will only be there to assist local government officials and health workers in the search and transfer of virus-infected individuals under the program, called “Oplan Kalinga.”

“Again, I wish to emphasize that the PNP’s presence in the conduct of the said program is purely for support and assistance to the LGUs who are taking the lead in defeating COVID-19 in the communities,” Año said as he dismissed claims of militarization since the military will have no role in this effort.

The DILG Chief said that he doesn’t understand why some quarters are speculating about the program since Republic Act 11332 or “An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern,” specifies that collaboration with law enforcement is encouraged “to protect the people from public health threats.”

He said that Section 4 of the said law states that one of its objectives is expanding collaboration beyond traditional public health partners such as law enforcement entities.

“Itong ginagawa natin ay nasa batas. Sa pangangalaga ng kaligtasan at kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan ay maaaring makipag-partner ang local health authorities sa ating mga law enforcement,” he said.

He said that the local government unit, through its Local Epidemiological Surveillance Unit will be the one to visit the households with COVID-19 patients.

“Ang mangunguna dito ‘yung ating LGU at ang public health authority, pangungunahan ito ng city or local epidemiological surveillance unit kasi sila talaga ang mga expert dito. Pati’ yung resulta ng contact tracing, pati kung sino ‘yung tetesting, ililipat o ire-refer sa ospital,” he stressed.

He added that prior to going to residences, local officials already have the necessary list and identification of households with COVID-19 patients.

These patients will then be assessed if they can comply with the minimum requirements to be permitted to practice home quarantine.

The Inter-Agency Task Force earlier said that patients showing mild flu-like symptoms or asymptomatic are allowed to do home quarantine if he/she has a separate room where the patient can be confined; if the patient has his own comfort room; and if he/she is not living with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 such as senior citizen and immunocompromised individuals, among others.

If these protocols cannot be observed at home, then the patient must be brought to a local quarantine facility.

Año assured the public that no rights will be violated as police officers’ presence will be limited to assisting in transporting patients and ensuring that lockdowns are imposed.

“We are very systematic naman in our approach. Bago pa pumunta sa lugar ay kumpleto na sila ng listahan at ng pangalan. Ito naman ay mga naka-PPEs (personal protective equipment) ‘yung ating health officials and health workers dito. Trained din naman ‘yung pulis para pumasok,” he said.

The DILG Chief urged the public’s cooperation by reporting households with confirmed COVID-19 cases and are currently practicing home quarantine despite not having the appropriate facilities. 

“Kailangan po nating ipaalam sa ating mga autoridad ang mga ganitong kaso para sila po ay mailagay sa tamang pasilidad at doon magpagaling. Ito naman po ay para rin sa kapakanan ng buong komunidad at nang hindi na dumami pa ang COVID-19 cases,” he said.

Local airlines to increase number of flights this holiday season

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Local airlines are preparing to add more flights as more passengers are expected to travel this holiday season just as quarantine restrictions ease.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the easing of quarantine restrictions can help the airline industry recover from the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The good news is the Balikbayan Program. This is the easing of travel requirements for balikbayans to entice them to return to the Philippines,” she said.

Villaluna said they are also coordinating with local government units to make sure the minimum health standards are still being implemented.

Local airlines have already partnered with private laboratories for more affordable and faster swab testing of passengers. For PAL and Air Asia, the RT-PCR testing in their accredited diagnostic lab costs P4,000.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific launched a “test before boarding” policy which requires passengers to undergo an antigen testing before boarding. The testing in Cebu Pacific is free from December 3 to December 14 but it is only exclusive to passengers en route to General Santos City.

“This is an initiative where we are closely working with the LGU in coming up with this process wherein passengers are required to take an antigen test no more than five hours before their departure time and then the results will come out in 30 minutes,” according to Candice Iyog, vice president for Marketing and Customer Experience of Cebu Pacific.

Local airlines advise passengers to refer to their respective websites for the essential requirements before boarding their flights. AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

Duterte to attend virtual UN General Assembly on COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to participate in the 31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic from December 3 to 4, Malacañang said Thursday.

The Palace said Duterte is expected to deliver the Philippine Statement on December 3, where he will further amplify his call for global solidarity in addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19.

The president is also expected to raise universal access to the anti-COVID-19 technologies, as well as the need for global efforts to ensure the availability of safe and effective vaccines to peoples of developing nations.

During the 75th UNGA session last September, Duterte also said that COVID-19 vaccines “must not be denied nor withheld,” and that “it should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Unemployment rate in October 2020 eases to 8.7% —PSA

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 3, 2020

The unemployment rate in October 2020 eases to 8.7%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

From April 2020, with a 17.6% unemployment rate, the number of unemployed Filipinos continued to drop to 10% in July and 8.7% in October. This is equivalent to 3.8 million Filipinos, 15 years old and above, who are unemployed.

With several establishments reopening after strict lockdowns due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), several Filipinos were able to find jobs during the last quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate also droppedd to 14.4% this October, compared to 17.3%t last July.

The PSA said the economy is gradually recovering as lockdowns continue to ease. -AAC

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