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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 6, 2020   •   956

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)

Clinical trials on COVID vax for minors ongoing; no vaccine rollout yet for children in PH — PPS

Marje Pelayo   •   June 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) confirmed that there are cases of COVID-19 among the country’s younger population.

However, no severe cases of COVID-19 among children have been recorded yet as the disease mostly affects the older age groups.

Though minors are considered low-risk, they still have to get vaccinated, according to a pediatric group.

“Kahit paano tinatamaan pa rin sila. Hindi naman natin masasabi kung sinong bata ang tatamaan at sino ang hindi. At least, protektado sila,” said Dr. Maria Karmela Kasala, spokesperson of the Philippine Pediatric Society.

Kasala said there are vaccines for minors that are under clinical trials in other countries.

“Other vaccine companies are also doing their own trials for these younger children. We have to wait for the results of those trials, at kapag nareview at na-evaluate na ng ating mga vaccine experts itong mga bagong studies sa mga kabataan. Kung nararapat sa ating (nakababatang) populasyon ay gagawan ng paraan para maipasok na sa priority vaccine rollout,” Kasala said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently allowed the emergency use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines for minors aged 12 to 15.

Meanwhile, China has also allowed the use Sinovac’s CoronaVac on children as young as three years old.

As for the Philippines, there is no approval yet from the government to inoculate the younger population with  available COVID-19 vaccines.

“Pero wala pang polisiya kung paano natin i-ro-rollout ang mga bakuna para dito sa mga edad na ito,” Kasala said.

She added that clinical trials on COVID-19 vaccines are ongoing around the world, but no results have been published yet.

“Ang ating mga bakuna, ang lahat ay naka-EUA pa sa buong mundo. In normal times, hindi pa iyan papayagang maibenta kasi kailangan ng certificate of product registration, at nakaraan sa clinical trial phase 4,” Kasala explained.

“Hindi na tayo umabot sa Phase 4 dahil nasa emergency pandemic tayo globally,” she said.

Gyms, fitness studios to reopen at 30% capacity beginning June 16

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has allowed the reopening of gyms, fitness studios, and other indoor non-contact sports venues in the  National Capital Region (NCR) Plus.

In a statement issued on Friday (June 11), the IATF announced that it has released Resolution No. 120 which allows the reopening of fitness studios, gyms, skating rinks, and racket sports courts at 30% capacity beginning June 16.

“Such venues are strongly encouraged to allow their regular members with recurring monthly subscription who opt not to avail of the services, to suspend their memberships for the duration of their limited opening,” the resolution reads.

The said establishments, however, would still need to secure safety seal certification before reopening. Minimum health standards should also be observed which includes wearing of face masks, strict physical distancing, and proper ventilation. AAC

Gov’t allows fully vaccinated senior citizens in GCQ, MGCQ areas to go out

Marje Pelayo   •   June 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday (June 11) confirmed that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is allowing senior citizens who have received two doses of vaccine against COVID-19 to leave their homes.

During the DOH regular press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the new policy only covers fully vaccinated senior citizens in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

“Pinapayagan na po ng ating gobyerno na makalabas na ang ating senior citizens sa June 16 na fully vaccinated, iyon pong may dalawang doses ng bakuna dito sa COVID-19,” Vergerie said.

The official advises, however, that despite eased restrictions on the movement of the elderly, they must still observe the minimum health and safety protocols.

“Nanawagan tayo sa mga senior citizen na maari na kayong lumabas pero kailangan lang na nakasuot pa rin kayo ng face mask at face shield. Huwag pupunta sa matataong lugar especially in enclosed spaces,” Vergeire said.

The official stressed that those fully vaccinated senior citizens in areas with higher quarantine restrictions must still stay at home.

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