Over 95% of workers vaxxed as PH dive tourism readies to reopen to foreign tourists

Maris Federez   •   November 26, 2021   •   99

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday announced that 95.78 percent of tourism workers employed in accredited dive establishments across the Philippines are now vaccinated.

According to the DOT, the recorded vaccination rate signals the readiness of this niche market to the eventual reopening of the country to foreign visitors.

The report was based on the latest data received from 105 Dive Establishments (DEs) and Liveaboards Dive Establishments (LDEs) that are accredited by the DOT’s Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD).

The data showed that 1,342 or 95.78% out of 1,401 employees have already been inoculated (first dose and fully vaccinated) against COVID-19, while the remaining 59 employees (4.21 percent) are still for vaccination.

According to the PCSSD’s survey, unvaccinated tourism workers in dive destinations are either pregnant, with existing comorbidities, or are still unwilling to get vaccinated.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat welcomed the development.

She pointed out that the vaccination of workers in the dive sector will add to the overall readiness of the country to welcome foreign visitors.

This shall also help in further strengthening its position as one of the leading dive destinations globally.

“The DOT shall continue to work with other national and local government agencies as well as our stakeholders in the private sector to vaccinate all tourism workers in the country as soon as possible. Now that our borders are being eased to foreign visitors, it is imperative to protect our workforce against the virus,” said Puyat.

“With our recent win as Asia’s leading dive destination at the 28th World Travel Awards (WTA) last October, we anticipate a good volume of foreign tourists returning to our dive spots in the coming months,” she added.

The DOT said the Philippines bagged the WTA title as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination for the third consecutive year since 2019.

Meanwhile, the tourism chief noted that some tourism workers remain unvaccinated due to missed vaccine appointments and a preference for vaccine brands that are not available in their area.

She reiterated the DOT’s call on LGUs with tourism destinations including dive spots to prioritize tourism workers in their respective vaccination programs, especially those with ample supply of vaccines.

Mandatory use of face shields only when alert level goes up — DILG

Maris Federez   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The use of face shields will only become mandatory when cases of the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) Omicron variant is already recorded in the country and the alert level system goes up from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3, said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the weekly Talk to the Nation aired Tuesday night, Año clarified that the government does not totally disregard the use of face shield which was, in fact, integrated into the country’s alert level system in COVID-19 response.

He said while face shield use is voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, it has remained under the discretion of the local government units under Alert Level 4, and mandatory in areas under Alert Level 5, as stated in the current Alert Level system.

“Hindi naman po natin talaga totally na-discard ‘yung face shield. In-integrate lang po natin doon sa Alert Level System na sa Alert Level 1, 2, 3 ay voluntary po; Alert Level 4, may discretion ang LGU to impose; Alert Level 5, talagang mandatory,” Año said.

The DILG chief further clarified the use of face shields in layman’s terms and likened it to an umbrella.

“Para pong ano siya eh, sa layman’s term, ‘yung face shield po parang payong. ‘Pag malakas ang ulan nagpapayong po tayo; pero ‘pag wala nang ulan, pwedeng itabi lang muna ‘yung payong. Pero ‘pag uulan o kaya nakita natin na maulap, magdadala po ng paying,” he said.

Año stressed that the use of face shields is still well within the government’s policy.

“But, of course, sir, it will change kung may makapasok na Omicron,” he said.

The DILG chief underscored the government’s readiness once the Omicron variant enters the country.

“Now, we have instituted border controls. But our border in the southeast porous, iyon ang dapat bantayan po. Kasi kung mayroong mga pumasok na mga Filipino Muslims from Sabah, from Malaysia or Indonesia at hindi po dumaan sa port or seaport, airport, eh ‘yun po ‘yung talagang kailangang mabantayan,” Año warned.

As the department’s course of action, Año said he has coordinated with the military and has given directives to the police and the coast guard to implement strict and close monitoring in the country’s borders.

“Through the PNP (Philippine National Police), Armed Forces [of the Philippines], [and the Philippine] Coast Guard, maglalabas po kami nang mas mahigpit na mga direktiba para siguradong mabantayan ‘yung mga porous borders natin,” he said. —/mbmf

Mandatory face shield use vs Omicron variant, hindi pa kailangan sa ngayon – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Naniniwala ang World Health Organization (WHO) na hindi pa kailangan sa ngayon ang muling pagpapatupad ng mandatory face shield use sa harap ng banta ng bagong COVID-19 variant na Omicron.

Ayon kay WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, mas mahalaga sa ngayon ang pagsunod sa health protocols gaya ng tamang pagsusuot ng face mask, physical distancing, at ang pagpapanatili ng kalinisan upang makaiwas sa COVID-19.

“WHO has right along said that this is a virus that is not airborne. It is closed contact transmission and that is why we emphasized that what is important is the physical distancing and face masking and hygiene,” ani Abeyasinghe.

“If we can ensure those minimum requirements, those minimum public health measure are complied with, if we can ensure that people don’t congregate in close settings, the requirement of face shield probably at this point of time is not mandatory,” dagdag pa niya.

Una nang inatasan ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang mga eksperto at ang Inter-Agency Task Force na magsumite ng rekomendasyon hinggil sa posibleng pagbabalik ng mandatory face shield use dahil sa banta ng bagong variant.

Ang Omicron variant ay unang natuklasan sa South Africa noon lamang nakaraang linggo at ngayo’y napaulat na rin sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Sa ulat ng ilang eksperto, pinangangambahang mas agresibo at mas nakakahawa ang variant na ito dahil sa nakita ritong mutations na mas marami pa kumpara sa Delta variant.

Ngunit giit ng WHO, sa ngayon ay wala pang malinaw na detalye para sabihing mas mabagsik nga ang Omicron variant at may epekto ito sa transmission, mga gamot na ginagamit sa severe infection at sa bakuna laban sa COVID-19.

2.5 million vaccinated in day 1 of PH vaccination drive – DOH exec

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – More than 2.5 million individuals were inoculated against COVID-19 on the first day of the government’s three-day nationwide vaccination drive, a Department of Health (DOH) official said Tuesday.

In a public briefing, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said a total of 2,554,023 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Monday.

This is 2.5 times the daily average last week, she added.

Of the total doses, the biggest chunk was administered in Calabarzon, followed by Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Bicol regions.

Cabotaje, who also chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center, noted that the only “major challenge” they encountered in the first day of the vaccination drive were reports that some walk-ins at vaccination sites were not given the shots.

“Meron pong direktiba ang ating Presidente to vaccinate everyone… We allow walks-ins. Dapat po, walang uuwi na nakapila na hindi nabakunahan,” she said.

The government on Monday kicked off its three-day vaccination campaign, dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” program, which aims to inoculate around 9 million people.

The campaign will end on Wednesday, December 1.

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 earlier said the vaccination drive will only be the first leg of the program, which is focused on scaling up the inoculation rate of local government units for the first vaccine dose by covering up to 70% of their target populations.

The second leg of the vaccination event will be held from December 15 to 17, which will focus on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by year-end.

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