PH lifts COVID-19-related travel ban on Taiwan

Robie de Guzman   •   February 14, 2020   •   942

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has lifted the travel restrictions it imposed on Taiwan due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Malacañang announced Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has resolved to lift the travel restrictions imposed upon Taiwan because of strict measures being undertaken by the Taiwanese government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Panelo said the lifting of the ban is effective immediately.

“Accordingly, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa,” he said.

The Philippines this week included Taiwan in its travel restrictions initially imposed on China and its special administrative regions affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

A Philippine health official explained that Taiwan was included in the ban as the World Health Organization recognizes it as a part of China.

Malacañang later on said the temporary ban was imposed for the safety of the Filipino people and not due to politics.

The travel restriction was criticized by Taiwan, stressing that it had only 18 cases of the virus compared to some 60,000 in China.

Taiwan threatened to implement countermeasures against the Philippines, including scrapping visa-free privileges for Filipinos if it keeps the entry ban.

Several Filipinos currently working and those en route to Taiwan also appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the ban, expressing fears of losing their jobs.

Panelo also said the task force would also evaluate on whether to lift the ban on other Chinese jurisdictions given preventive protocols implemented against the deadly virus.

“The Office of the President likewise stresses that any resolution relative to travel restrictions in connection with the COVID-19 shall be subjected to regular review by the IATF,” he said.

DOH asks hospitals to increase bed capacity to accommodate more COVID-19 patients

Marje Pelayo   •   July 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is asking hospitals across the country to increase their bed capacity to accommodate more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

This is because most major hospitals in Metro Manila are already in the danger zone or nearing full capacity due to the surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Administrative Order No.2020-0016 states that hospitals must allot 30% bed capacity for COVID-19 cases; but currently, public hospitals are utilizing 20% bed capacity while 9% in private hospitals.

Commitment po ng mga private hospitals po na maglaan ng 20 percent ng kanilang total functional bed capacity for COVID. Nakiusap ako na kung pwedeng kung kailangan ay dagdagan pa ng 10 percent para maging 30 percent,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. 

[It is the commitment of private hospitals to allot 20 percent of their total functional bed capacity for COVID. I asked them, if possible, to increase their capacity by 10 percent to make it 30 percent.]

Samantala ang atin pong mga pampublikong mga hospital ay atin pong pinakiusap ay yung 30 percent naman nila na allocated for COVID ay kinakailangan up to 50 percent ng kanilang bed capacity,” he added.

[Meanwhile, our private hospitals were also asked to increase bed capacity from 30 percent and make it 50 percent for COVID patients.]

At present, four major hospitals in Metro Manila have declared full capacity and can no longer accept COVID-19 patients. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the Philippines’ problems with bed capacity for COVID-19 cases. 

WHO Active Country Rep. Dr. Rabindra Abesayinghe recommends that only the severe and critical cases who needed critical care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) be accepted to address the matter. 

“Other measures that need to be done and the government is practicing now is encouraging the management of mild cases or asymptomatic positives in so called isolation centers, rather than admitting them to hospitals,” he said. 

“Because mild or asymptomatic people don’t require the facilities available in a hospital to manage them,” he added. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Defense chief Lorenzana to go on quarantine after staff contracts COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said he would go on self-quarantine after a member of his staff tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Lorenzana, who heads the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said his staff learned of his positive swab test result when they landed together in Jolo, Sulu on Monday.

He said his aide was also with him when they went to Subic, Zambales last Friday.

The Defense chief, however, assured that the said staff member did not interact with President Rodrigo Duterte during their Jolo trip.

Lorenzana said he already underwent swab testing and will await the result while on quarantine.

This is not the first time that Lorenzana went on quarantine as he voluntarily went on isolation in May for having close contact with Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Felimon Santos Jr. who contracted and recovered from the disease.

Gov’t assigns anti-COVID-19 czars to boost fight against virus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 14, 2020

The Duterte Administration assigned anti-COVID czars to intensify the country’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Malacañang admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise but it assured that the administration is still in control of the situation.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. introduced the four anti-COVID czars, namely, Secretary Vivencio Dizon as Chief Testing Czar, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as Chief Tracing Czar, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar as Chief Isolation Czar, and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as Chief Treatment Czar.

Roque explained that all four anti-COVID czars will be directly under the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) led by Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Mas malawakang targeted testing, mas maraming isolation centers, mas matinding tracing, at mas matinding treatment para sa mga nagkakasakit. Lahat po yan sa ilalim ng NTF, sa ilalim ng ating Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez (More extensive targeted testing, additional isolation centers, improved contact tracing, and better quality of treatment for patients. All of these will be under the NTF, under Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez),” Roque said.

Chief Testing Czar Secretary Dizon reported there are now 85 COVID-19 laboratories nationwide, with nearly 1 million tests done as of July 11. Daily tests as of July 9 reached 25,000, nearing the 30,000 daily tests target by end of the month.

For tracing, Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Magalong said they are seeking to intensify skills training for contact tracers and use a contact tracing e-system composed of a COVID-19 data collection tool, a GIS (geographical information system) platform, and a Link Analysis Tool.

Chief Isolation Czar Secretary Villar said they plan to construct more quarantine facilities nationwide. Aside from the existing 129 regional evacuation centers, they are also building quarantine facilities in Region 7, Region 8, Region 10, and in Region 12.

Meanwhile, Chief Treatment Czar Dr. Vega said expanding hospital capacity will be one of his priorities. He also introduced One Hospital Command which will be in charge of both public and private hospitals and quarantine facilities in terms of planning healthcare capacity among others.

Galvez also said the NTF will also focus on the economy and social recovery of the country.

Nandito po tayo sa sitwasyon na dahan-dahan nating binubuksan ang ating ekonomiya. Bagaman nandito po ang threat ng virus, kailangan na nating i-recover ang ating mga ekonomiya para manumbalik po ang negosyo at trabaho ng ating mamamayan (We are in a situation where we are slowly opening our economy. Even though the threat of the virus is still there we still need our economy to recover so that businesses and jobs will reopen for our citizens), he said. –AAC

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