IATF allows arcades, cinemas and other businesses to reopen in GCQ areas – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2021   •   347

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has allowed the reopening of more businesses in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), Malacañang announced Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved the reopening and further expansion of the following businesses/industries:

  • Driving schools
  • Traditional cinemas
  • Video and interactive-game arcades
  • Libraries 
  • Archives
  • Museums and cultural centers

The conduct of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, and limited social events at credited establishments of the Department of Tourism have also been allowed.

The IATF approved the new policy during its 99th meeting on Thursday, February 11, as authorities sought to boost the country’s economy battered by the pandemic.

“Also approved is the reopening of limited tourist attractions, such as parks, theme parks, natural sites and historical landmarks,” Roque said.

He stressed that the reopening and further expansion of businesses/industries “shall be subject to the issuance of the implementing guidelines which will provide for the operational capacity, and oversight of the appropriate regulatory agency and the concerned local government units where these businesses/industries are located.”

“These businesses/industries shall comply with the strict observance of minimum public health standards set by the Department of Health,” Roque added.

Metro Manila is under GCQ for the month of February, as well as the Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas, Tacloban City, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Iligan City.

The rest of the country is under modified GCQ, the loosest quarantine restriction level.

Day 1 of COVID-19 vaccine rollout records more than 700 vaccinees

Maris Federez   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The number of recipients on Day-1 of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Metro Manila has exceeded the expectation of the Inter-Agency Task Force Against COVID-19 (IATF).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this is a solid proof of the success of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Program.

Based on the tally reported to Malacañang, the first day of the vaccine rollout yielded 756 vaccinees from six hospitals in Metro Manila:

  • UP-Philippine General Hospital (PGH), 128
  • Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center & Sanitarium, 85
  • Lung Center of the Philippines, 20
  • Veterans Memorial Medical Center, 353
  • Victoriano Luna Medical Center, 60
  • PNP General Hospital, 110

Prior to Day-1, only less than one hundred frontline workers in PGH volunteered to be vaccinated.

“Naging napakatagumpay po ng Day-1 ng ating national vaccination program. Kung sana po lahat po ay nagdiwang. May iba pa pong naiyak sa tuwa nung nakita nilang nagpapabakuna si Dr. Gap Legaspi,” Roque said. —/mbmf (with details from Rosalie Coz)

iNITAG rejects IATF’s request to include influencers among first recipients of Sinovac vaccine

Maris Federez   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reported that the Inter-Agency Task Force Against COVID-19 (IATF) had asked the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (INITAG) to reserve slots for CoronaVac shots for influencers to boost public trust in the vaccine.

The list of influencers submitted to INITAG include President Rodrigo Duterte, the members of the Cabinet, lawmakers, local chief executives, and other personalities.

INITAG, however, disapproved the request as the vaccination rollout prioritizes the medical frontliners in receiving the vaccines.

“Kami po sa IATF ay nag-propose na mga 50 na mga bakuna ay ireserba sa mga tinawatag nating influencer nang mapaigting natin ang vaccine confidence. Hindi po sumang-ayon ang INITAG,” Roque said.

The only thing that the Palace could do was to apologize to the local chief executives who had initially volunteered to be vaccinated.

Only three personalities from the administration were inoculated with the CoronaVac under the directive of the president.

They are National Task Force (NTF) Chief Implementer and Vaccine CzarSec. Carlito Galvez; NTF Deputy Chief Implementer and Testing Czar Vince Dizon; and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairperson Benhur Abalos who represents the local chief executives of Metro Manila. —/mbmf (with details from Rosalie Coz)

DepEd urged to rollout ‘limited, very controlled’ pilot testing of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider conducting a pilot testing of face-to-face classes in areas with very few or zero COVID-19 cases to see how this will work.

Angara said that while he supports calls for the resumption of limited in-person classes, it would be best to conduct a dry-run in areas where physical distancing and other health protocols can be strictly observed.

“Gusto natin maibalik ang face-to-face classes pero be that as it may nagsalita na din si Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte) na bastat walang bakuna ayaw niya mag upisa ng face-to-face classes nationwide,” Angara said in a statement on Sunday.

“Kung sakali, bago tayo mag umpisa ng nationwide rollout ng face-to-face classes, pumili tayo ng isa o dalawang probinsya muna para sa pilot testing,” Angara added.

The pilot areas should also have strong health systems that would be able to handle possible outbreaks in case of “super spreader” events.

“Kailangan ang lugar na yun ay walang masyadong kaso at handa ang kanyang health system kung sakaling magkaroon ng super spreader event,” he said.

Angara said the local government units that will be part of the pilot testing should ensure they have health facilities such as hospitals that are capable of handling a large number of cases–from isolation to treatment.

“Kung i-rollout ng DepEd itong face-to-face classes ay maingat at limitado talaga, under very controlled conditions muna,” Angara said.

Some senators have earlier pushed to reduce the number of schools participating in the dry-run.

Instead of 1,065 as initially proposed by the DepEd, lawmakers want the program be conducted in 500 or lower number of schools with smaller number of students.

The proposal aims to gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angara stressed that any plan to resume face-to-face learning should be done with extreme caution since the risk of contracting COVID-19 still exists in the country.

He believes that the resumption of limited in-person classes would ease off a lot of stress and pressure on both the students and their parents who have been forced to cope with blended learning due to the pandemic.

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