Not gov’t incompetence: COVID-19 case surge in PH attributed to ‘multiple factors’ – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021   •   347

MANILA, Philippines – The spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the Philippines is attributed to ‘multiple factors’ and is not caused by government incompetence, an official of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

During a Palace briefing on Monday, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said a country’s testing capacity, population, and health systems capacity affect the decline or increase of infections.

“So, what will be more accurate is to look at the incidence rates or the number of cases per 100,000 or 1 million population, this would be going to point where the Philippines actually is,” Abeyasinghe said.

“But again, there are multiple factors that affect the transmission in a country because countries are different from each other,” he added.

The WHO official also stressed that other countries have also experienced a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, prompting governments to reimpose restrictions even in nations that are doing extensive vaccination.

“I would want to reiterate the fact that the Philippines is not unique in seeing an increase, and this increase is not attributed in any way to incompetence,” Abeyasinghe said.

“We are seeing a week-on-week increase in the number of cases worldwide, not just here in the Philippines, in nearly all of WHO’s six regions, we are seeing an increase of cases week-by-week over the last four weeks,” he added.

Abeyasinghe’s remark comes after some critics questioned the Philippine government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 803,398 COVID-19 cases with 646,237 recoveries and 13,435 fatalities. Of the total cases, 143,726 are active.

The WHO official said that the increased transmissibility due to new coronavirus variants, along with the gradual reduction in compliance with health protocols due to pandemic fatigue, optimism in the arrival and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines also contribute to the surge in infections.

“The increase is not attributed in any way to a lack of competence. It is an issue related to the factors I have mentioned,” Abyasinghe said.

“Of course, that does not take away from the fact that we need to continue to invest and work towards strengthening our preparedness and response capacities on the ground,”  he added.

The national government placed the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna – called NCR Plus – under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 4 in a bid to stem the surge in infections.

It was later extended to April 11.

Aside from the NCR Plus, President Rodrigo Duterte also placed Quirino Province and Santiago City in Isabela under modified ECQ while the Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur under general community quarantine (GCQ) for the month of April.

The rest of the country was placed under modified GCQ.

 

DOLE to hire 1,000 additional contact tracers for Metro Manila

Marje Pelayo   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will hire up to 6,000 contact tracers to help in the government’s response against COVID-19.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that from the initial 4,000 recruits, the government is now planning to hire 1,000 additional  contact tracers for Metro Manila.

Bello said DOLE  has allotted an additional P65 million for the mass hiring, bringing the program’s total budget to P295 million.

The official explained that such augmentation is necessary as the demand for contact tracers especially in Metro Manila has been high.

“Kailangang-kailangan talaga ng ating mga contact tracer lalong lalo na dito sa NCR at saka sa apat na bubble,” Bello said.

As of Thursday (April 22), the number of applicants for the position has reached more than 10,000.

Bello said training for the contact tracers will begin on Monday (April 26). Accepted applicants will start their duty on May 1.

Each contact tracer will receive a monthly salary of P16,000 or up to P45,000 for three months. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PhilHealth’s debit-credit payment method now applies to all COVID-19 high, critical risk areas – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has approved the application of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) debit-credit payment method (DCPM) in areas with high-risk and critical COVID-19 situation nationwide, Malacañang said Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) approved the policy on Thursday, April 22.

Roque said the move was made as high-risk and critical risk areas will also be prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccine allocation, human health resource deployment, and other relevant COVID-19 response measures, as applicable.

Prior to the IATF’s order, PhilHealth, under its Circular 2021-0004, provides for the use of payment method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to healthcare facilities during the State of Public Health Emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth initially applied DCPM only to areas identified by the IATF, particularly in the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.

Roque said the IATF likewise directed the National Task Force (NTF) Task Group Treat, through the One COVID Referral System, to utilize the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) projections on target beds and human resources for health.

“These projections shall identify health capacity needs required to lower health care and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates,” he said.

“The NTF shall also review and implement the recommended Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat- Reintegrate strategies to reduce the health utilization rates and augment the needs of human resources for health,” he added.

Roque said that the task group will also identify target additional beds on a weekly basis that will substantially reduce health care and ICU utilization rates, determine and list specific health facilities and infrastructure to contribute these additional beds, and operationalize how these beds become functional with adequate human resources for health and equipment.

The Palace official earlier said that the government is eyeing to add 200 more ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

“The NTF shall further engage the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to develop training and instructional materials of available COVID-19 response frameworks to enhance the enforcement of COVID-19 strategies at the barangay level,” Roque said.

The said materials shall be cascaded to the barangay, purok, sitio, and zone levels through the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the regional counterparts of the NTF for immediate and intensified implementation through barangay empowerment, he added.

MECQ sa NCR+ ‘di pa tiyak kung palalawigin o luluwagan na — Malakanyang

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Hindi pa umano matitiyak sa ngayon kung maaari nang luwagan o kaya’y pananatilihin pa ang ipinaiiral na modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) sa National Capital Region (NCR) at mga kalapit na lalawigan ng Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, at Laguna, o ang tinatawag na NCR Plus.

Ayon kay Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, kailangan pang pag-aralan nang maigi ang sitwasyon ng COVID-19 sa mga nasabing lugar kahit pa bumababa na ang naitatalang kaso ng impeksyon sa mga nakalipas na araw.

Noong Huwebes, 8,767 ang naitalang bagong kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, habang sa mga nakalipas na araw ay hindi na rin umaabot sa 10,000 ang mga napapaulat na nahahawa ng COVID-19.

Ayon kay Roque, hindi pa rin satisfied ang pamahalaan sa bilang na ito at kailangan pa itong masusing pag-aralan.

“Sa ngayon po, I think premature na mag-speculate kung ano magiging classification natin. Ang importante po palagi, tingnan iyong daily attack rate, 2-week average attack rate at saka iyong healthcare utilization rate,” ang pahayag ng opisyal.

Binigyang-diin naman ni Testing Czar Vince Dizon na kailangang bigyan ng prayoridad ang pagpapalakas sa kapasidad ng intensive care units (ICU) para sa COVID-19 sa NCR Plus.

Kailangan ding dagdagan ang bilang ng healthcare professionals na mag-aasikaso sa mga pasyente.

“Nag-commit din po ang ating mga ospital ng 176 ICU beds dito sa NCR Plus at mahigit isanlibong ward beds sa kaniya-kaniyang mga ospital,” ani Dizon.

Batay sa pinakahuling ulat, nasa 80 porsiyento na ang okupadong ICU beds sa mga ospital sa Metro Manila.

Nakatakda namang magpulong sa Linggo ang mga alkalde ng Metro Manila para talakayin ang magiging rekomendasyon kaugnay ng ipatutupad na community quarantine classification sa NCR pagkatapos ng April 30. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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