Inbound travelers positive for COVID-19 to undergo genome sequencing, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   January 16, 2021   •   824

MANILA, Philippines – All travelers who test positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) upon arrival in the Philippines will be subjected to genome sequencing to check for the presence of new variants, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

The DOH announced the new directive after a 29-year old Filipino who traveled to Dubai in December tested positive for the more transmissible COVID-19 variant first reported in the United Kingdom.

“There was instruction already na lahat ng parating na pasahero basta’t positive atin na pong isu-isubject sa [genome] sequencing,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing.

Genomic sequencing is a process that allows scientists to analyze and determine how a virus has mutated and to detect if it has the new variants based on the samples taken from coronavirus-infected patients.

Previously, authorities conducted random sequencing of the samples of inbound passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.

Amid the growing number of cases of new COVID-19 variants, the DOH said the government is strengthening its genomic biosurveillance as it is “not feasible” for the country to totally shut its borders.

“Our safeguard would be the biosurveillance that we will be doing and the strict protocols in our ports of entry,” Vergeire said.

She also pointed out that none of the other countries are implementing a total travel ban amid the reported spread of new coronavirus variants.

“Wala pa naman tayong move na ganyan sa ngayon na pinag-uusapan sa Inter- Agency Task Force… Kailangan lang natin maintindihan na iyon pong mga ibang mga countries na may variant, wala namang community transmission… But, of course, that would be part of something to be considered by the IATF in the coming days,” she said.

Malacañang has announced Friday that the government is extending for another two weeks that travel restrictions on foreign passengers coming from 32 countries. Filipinos coming from countries covered by the travel ban are still allowed to enter the Philippines but will be required to undergo quarantine for two weeks regardless of their COVID-19 test result. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Phl COVID-19 active cases now at 59,865 as DOH logs 7,302 new infections

Maris Federez   •   June 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday reported 7,302 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, bringing the country’s total number to 1,315,639.

The DOH said the newly recorded infections brought the country’s total active cases to 59,865. Of this number, 91.2% are mild, 4.6% are asymptomatic, 1.8% are severe, and 1.3% are in critical condition.

The total number of recoveries, on the other hand, rose to 1,232,986 after 7,701 patients recuperated from the respiratory illness.

The death toll climbed to 22,788 as 137 succumbed to the disease.

The DOH also said that final validation of reported cases showed that 15 duplicates were removed from the total case count, while 65 cases that were previously tagged as recoveries were now reclassified under fatalities.

DOH warns against faking health conditions for COVID vax

Marje Pelayo   •   June 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines —  The country’s COVID-19 vaccine supply is hardly sufficient for the entire Filipino population that is why the government is prioritizing the vulnerable sectors first.

However, some people who cannot wait for their turn have no problem with faking comorbidities so that they can jump the vaccination line.

The Department of Health (DOH) warned that giving false health declarations could lead to criminal charges.

“Baka hahanap pa tayo ng ibang batas na pwede nating makita at pwede nating gamitin pero iyong pag nagfa-falsify kasi tayo ng mga sakit natin, katulad niyan it’s going to be on public record. Meron po iyang mga penalties—meron na po tayong vina-violate sa ating mga existing laws in the country,” warned Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Republic Act 11332 of the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act states that offenders would face a penalty of up to P50,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

The DOH is also looking into other laws that could penalize those who will fake their conditions and claim comorbidities just to get vaccinated.

The DOH said people shouldn’t rush to get the vaccine because once the supply is enough, each and every Filipino will have a chance to receive it.

“So atin pong binabalaan at atin pong binibigyan ng advise ang ating mga kababayan. Don’t go to that strategy. Hindi nyo po kailangan gawin iyan. Maghintay lang po tayo at dadating ang mga bakuna para mabakunahan po tayo lahat,” Vergeire said adding that there is a proper process that each person with comorbidity should go through.

They also need to submit some requirements to assess their conditions before they get vaccinated.

“Kapag po tayo ay nag- masterlist nagsusumite ang ating mga kababayan ng mga kanilang apparent comorbidities. Pagdating nila doon sa vaccination site, we need proof or evidence na kailangan maipakita nila na sila talaga ay may sakit. Ang nirequire natin, kailangan meron silang reseta, kailangan six months before meron silang medical certificate, 18 months before pwede, pwedeng mga laboratoryo,” Vergeire stressed.

“Iyan ay ini-evaluate ng ating screeners and pag nakita nila na hindi sya authentic, and then we will just tell them na hindi niyo pa turn and you you just need to go back. So ganun po yung ginagawa natin,” she added.

Meanwhile, the DOH cannot confirm if all in NCR Plus 8 areas would be completely vaccinated to reach population protection before the end of 2021.

According to DOH, herd immunity is only possible once the supply of COVID-19 vaccines becomes stable.

“Ito iyong focusing on specific areas that will give us more impact in vaccinating. So for NCR plus 8, ito po ang ating ine-estima na hopefully by the end of the year we will be able to achieve depending on the supplies that will come in. Pero ang kailangan nating balikan ding population protection also speaks of as here in the Philippines being able to vaccinate those most vulnerable,” Vergeire said. MNP (with report Aiko Miguel)

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.

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