New Zealand’s health minister resigns after coronavirus criticism

UNTV News   •   July 2, 2020   •   394

New Zealand’s embattled Health Minister David Clark resigned on Thursday (July 2) after security slip-ups at quarantine facilities where the coronavirus was detected just days after officials declared it had been eliminated from the country.

Clark was also under fire for personally breaching strict lockdown rules twice earlier in the year, by taking his family on a beach trip and driving to a mountain biking track.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who had earlier refused calls to sack Clark, citing his critical role in the country’s response to the pandemic, said she agreed with his decision.

Recent opinion polls have Ardern’s Labour Party far ahead of its main rival National Party, putting it on track to win a Sept. 19 general election, but public confidence in her government has been undermined by a series of blunders.

Ardern had declared in early June that New Zealand had eliminated coronavirus, although she warned there would almost certainly be new cases, as she lifted social distancing restrictions.

Just days later it was revealed that two women who arrived from Britain who were allowed to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds later tested positive for the virus.

Ardern appointed Education Minister Chris Hipkins as interim health minister until the September election, after which she said she would consider a permanent replacement. (Reuters)

(Production: James Redmayne)

Davao City prohibits trick-or-treat, other holiday events amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2020

No community events, parties, and other similar gatherings in all government and private offices and establishments will be held in Davao City especially during the holiday season, the local government announced Thursday.

In an advisory, the city government said the prohibition includes trick-or-treating, which is a traditional event of western countries adopted by some Filipinos during Undas period.

The measure will be implemented after health officials and infectious disease experts noted that conducting office or community events increase the transmission and risk of contracting the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Davao City, just like the rest of the world, continues to face the threat of the pandemic. Cases are still surging and it is feared that more and more deaths will happen if the unnecessary gathering of people is allowed,” the advisory read.

The city government reiterated its appeal to residents to stay home and avoid areas where people converge to avoid exposure and transmission of COVID-19.

It also encouraged residents to celebrate the holidays with their families intimately, use online shopping for groceries, food delivery services, and other contactless services to avoid unnecessary exposure. 

Instead of spending money on a grand party celebration and risk contracting the virus, residents are urged to share grocery items with a family in need, the city government added.

“This year, celebrations will only be truly special and meaningful if you, your family, and everyone in our communities are healthy and safe,” it added. 

The city government likewise advised residents to think twice before leaving their homes to attend parties, dinners, and other events that are not necessary or urgent, and always consider their own families’ safety and other people in the community.

As of Oct. 21, Davao City has recorded a total of 2,851 COVID-19 infections, of which, 671 are active cases. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lucille Lloren)

Manila opens another quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients

Robie de Guzman   •   October 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The city government of Manila on Wednesday opened its newest quarantine facility at the San Andres Sports Complex in a bid to increase the city’s capacity in dealing with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is our preparation, and in our little way, to continue to strengthen our load capacity na kung sakali, huwag naman sanang loobin ng Dios na mangyari sa atin, yung nangyari sa most portion of Europe na nagkaroon ng second wave,” Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso told reporters at the opening of the quarantine center.

“Inaabatan namin iyong posibleng hindi magandang mangyari sa December o Enero so kung dumating iyon, at huwag naman sana, at least kahit papano, ‘yung Maynila may espasyo,” he added.

The airconditioned quarantine facility, which has 54 beds with toilet and WiFi, was established with the help of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

So far, the city has 13 operational quarantine facilities, aside from walk-in testing centers and two confirmatory or swab testing centers.

Mayor Isko said they are still looking for more spaces to be converted as isolation centers amid the pandemic.

“Sa awa ng Dios we only have 68 percent occupancy rate with our facilities and 33 percent occupancy rate sa amin namang mga COVID-19 bedrooms in our six hospitals,” he said.

As of Oct. 20, Manila has recorded a total of 18,963 COVID-19 infections with 557 deaths. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOT, SB Corp. ink loan deal for pandemic-hit tourism MSMEs

Robie de Guzman   •   October 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) announced it has signed a loan deal with the Department of Trade and Industry’s Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.) which aims to extend assistance to small tourism-oriented firms that were badly-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a news release on Thursday, the DOT said the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) is to finalize the CARES for Tourism Rehabilitation and Vitalization of Enterprises and Livelihood (TRAVEL) program that will extend loan assistance to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) from the tourism industry.

“We thank Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez for making CARES for TRAVEL program a priority. We look forward to working with the SB Corp in providing our tourism enterprises with what they need – access to working capital loans,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

“The DOT believes that this program will accelerate the country’s tourism recovery from the harsh impacts of the pandemic. By working together, we can hopefully bring tourism, an industry that contributed 12.7% to the country’s 2019 GDP, back to its glory days,” she added.

Through the CARES for TRAVEL program, tourism MSMEs will have access to zero interest, no-collateral loans with a loan term period of up to four years, including a corresponding grace period of up to one year, the department said.

The borrower MSMEs will only need to pay a one-time service fee, which is set at a maximum of eight percent for a 4 year loan, it added.

SB Corp. will evaluate and process all loan applications of DOT-accredited MSMEs and local government-accredited small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises to ensure their eligibility and will determine the loanable amount and terms in accordance with the CARES for TRAVEL program guidelines.

The DOT, for its part, will regularly endorse to SB Corp a list of DOT-accredited tourism enterprises and LGU-accredited small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises that may be entitled to avail of business loans under the CARES for TRAVEL Program, subject to further evaluation by SB Corp.

Meanwhile, the SB Corp will regularly submit loan implementation reports to the DOT subject to compliance with Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

“Aside from rescaling, rebooting, and making some sort of whole industry pivot, we also recognize the need for tourism MSMEs to have access to financial assistance or funds just to tide them over the present pandemic crisis,” Romulo-Puyat said.

The agreement between the DOT and SB Corp. seeks to disburse P6 billion worth of loans to tourism MSMEs, using the budget allocated to the program under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2).

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