IATF temporarily suspends MRT-3 operations amid rising COVID-19 cases among personnel

Marje Pelayo   •   July 6, 2020   •   338

MANILA, Philippines — The Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) resumed operation on Monday (July 6) with passenger queues even longer than usual. 

The MRT-3 management, as recommended by the train system’s maintenance provider, cut the number of train sets to 11 from the usual 16 to 19 train sets.

Among the reasons include the rise in number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases among MRT-3 employees which, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), has already reached 186:

  • 169 workers at the MRT-3 Depot
  • 11 ticket sellers (4 from North Avenue station; 5 from Cubao station; 1 from Kamuning Station and 1 reserved personnel)
  • 3 train drivers
  • 2 control personnel 
  • 1 staff nurse (from Taft Avenue station)

On Monday (July 6), the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) again ordered the temporary shutdown of MRT-3’s operation following the increase in number of personnel who tested positive for COVID-19.

The temporary shutdown, which will start on Tuesday (July 7), “will be undertaken to give way to RT-PCR (swab) testing of all MRT-3 personnel, including those of its maintenance provider and subcontractors, to prevent further spread of the disease, and, most importantly, to protect the health and safety of both its personnel and commuters.”

The MRT-3 train operations will be suspended until July 11 or until RT-PCR testing confirms a sufficient number of COVID-19 negative personnel to enable resumption of at least limited operations.

This means that the period of the shutdown may be shortened or extended, depending on the pace and results of the RT-PCR testing. 

This also means that operations will resume even if the number of available personnel can only operate a limited number of train sets at the beginning.

During the temporary shutdown, thorough disinfection of all MRT-3 facilities will be conducted, including its depot, stations, and trains.

Also, all station personnel are now required to wear complete protective equipment (PPE) even those manning the bus augmentation service. 

Aside from regular temperature checks, personnel are required to submit health declaration forms twice a day. 

Trains are subjected to a “5-minute disinfection hustle” every half loop at the North Avenue and Taft Avenue Stations.

Markers have also been put in place at all stations and transport marshals have also been deployed to ensure strict implementation of physical distancing among passengers and of sectional physical segregation among employees in the Depot. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

Duterte approves P5-B for OFW aid, repatriation

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced Sunday that President Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5 billion for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers affected by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Dahil po mahal na mahal ni Pangulong Duterte ang ating mga bagong bayani, ibinigay po nya ang kailangan nating dagdag na pondo para sa repatriation at tulong para sa ating mga OFW,” Bello said.

In a statement issued on August 9, the Labor chief said a huge part of the said funds will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as the one that undertakes the repatriation of displaced OFWs due to lockdowns and closure of establishments overseas.

OWWA is also the one that shoulders the cost of COVID-19 tests of OFWs upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting test results of the test.

The agency also takes care of the OFWs transportation to their home provinces once they are tested negative for the virus.

OWWA has so far sent home close to 130,000 OFWs since May 15 via land, sea and air transport.

Other than the OWWA assistance, DOLE has been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under AKAP to pandemic-affected OFWs, both on-site and those stranded in the country, the statement said.

It added that the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) and OWWA had facilitated the processing and approval of the applications of 267,584 OFWs under the program that was meant to benefit only 250,000.

“I have directed our POLOs to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government,” Bello said.

The secretary had requested a P2.5 billion additional fund for the 597,469 OFWs who are requesting assistance from the government.

Bello believes that with additional funding, “more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and even more overseas workers will be repatriated and provided with assistance.” — /mbmf

Palace unconvinced PH has higher COVID-19 cases than Indonesia

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020

Malacañang is not convinced that the Philippines has surpassed Indonesia in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

During a press briefing on Friday (August 7), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is conducting more COVID-19 tests which resulted in more confirmed cases.

Ibig sabihin po dahil mas maigiting ang ating pagte-test hindi totoo na mas marami tayo kaso kaysa sa Indonesia. Hindi lamang nalalaman ng mga Indonesian kung sino-sino ang mga umiikot na mayroong sakit at least tayo alam kung sino po sila (It means we are conducting more tests. It is not true that we have more cases than Indonesia. The Indonesians don’t know who are sick at least, on our case, we know),” he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) has previously explained that the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines cannot be compared to other countries because of the population difference and health care system.

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said no country can say they have been successful in their fight against COVID-19.

“No country could ever say they are successful. Look at Japan, look at Italy, even Vietnam, and Singapore,” he said. “We focus on what we are doing is appropriate, proper, and practical rather than everyday compare yourself.” -AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

QC gov’t seeks complete info from DOH for contact tracing

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020

The Quezon City local government has appealed to the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure complete information of all coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positive individuals to hasten its contact tracing efforts.

QC Mayor Joy Belmonte said the agency’s failure to provide complete information in some cases delays contact tracing by days.

Due to this, she said frontliners are forced to spend valuable time looking for the needed information from other possible sources including social media.

“The lack of available information from the outset, specifically addresses and contact numbers, amounting to half of all cases reported, delays contact tracing by days,” she said.

Belmote said 573 or 47% out of the 1,224 COVID-19 cases from Aug. 1 to 2 have no addresses or contact numbers, forcing the City Epidemiology and
Surveillance Unit (CESU) to label them as ‘unknown’.

“With that, we appeal to your good office as Secretary of Health to set the vision and direction in improving data quality for rapid contact tracing,” she added. -AAC

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