Poe urges employers to ensure workers’ safety, maintain work-from-home scheme in GCQ areas

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2020   •   480

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe has called on employers to, as much as possible, maintain the work-from-home scheme even in areas that are under general community quarantine (GCQ) to lessen the transmission of COVID-19 among workers.

“Ang aking apela sa mga kompanya saka yung mga nasa government sector, kung hindi kailangan pumasok ng mga empleyado ninyo at puwedeng magtrabaho sa kani-kanilang mga tahanan, huwag nang papasukin,” Poe said.

The senator made the appeal after holding a virtual Senate hearing Monday on the preparations of the transport sector for the resumption of public transportation operations once the community quarantine is lifted.

She said it seems that the transport sector is not yet 100% ready to resume operations even at a limited capacity under GCQ.

Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on Public Services, noted that based on the hearing, various government agencies have prepared precautionary measures to ensure the safety of public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers, conductors and passengers.

However, there is still a possibility that a problem will arise in the implementation of these measures.

“Magkakagulo tayo pagdating sa pilahan, sa MRT sa LRT, sa mga bus, sa mga istasyon ng bus dahil kalahati lang o 30% lang ang pwedeng ipuno ng mga sasakyan na ‘yun,” she said.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said during the hearing that around two million commuters are expected to take public transportation once Metro Manila is placed under the GCQ.

Poe said this number could still be reduced if companies in areas under a relaxed quarantine status will still continue to implement work from home scheme.

She also called on telecommunication companies to improve their services to provide reliable internet connections, especially now that more workers are conducting their businesses and jobs from the confines of their homes.

“‘Yung mga pinapangako na pagpapatayo ng cell towers para yung transmission ng cell towers, para ‘yung transmission ng signal mas magaan, mas mabilis, payagan na natin. Gawin na natin para mas madaling magtrabaho mula sa bahay,” she said.

Metro Manila and other places characterized as high-risk areas will be under modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) starting May 16. Other areas with moderate and low-risk from COVID-19 will soon shift to GCQ.

Under a modified ECQ, movement within the zone will be limited to obtaining essential services and work; up to 50% workforce and operation of selected manufacturing and processing plants will be allowed; transportation services will also be limited to essential goods and services; while physical classes in schools will remain suspended. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

FDA confirms Sinovac submitted application for independent clinical trial

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed Sinovac, a China-based biopharmaceutical company, had submitted its application to conduct independent clinical trials in the country.

FDA Director-General Usec. Eric Domingo, however, said Sinovac has yet to submit other documents for the agency to process its application.

“That is undergoing regulatory evaluation, ganoon din iyong Ethics Board Evaluation niya—tuloy-tuloy po iyon (this also includes its Ethics Board Evaluation, it is ongoing), he said.

Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said vaccine experts panel also approved Sinovac in their preliminary review.

Kapag na complete na iyong requirements at nabigyan na sila ng approval then maari na pong mag umpisa (Once the requirements are complete and they received an approval, clinical trials can begin), she said.

Sinovac is among the three vaccine manufacturers that submitted their application to vaccine experts. -AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Tourist departures remain low despite lifting of travel restrictions – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The number of departing Filipino tourists has yet to pick up despite the easing of departure restrictions and allowing non-essential outbound travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Thursday.

The BI said only 95 out of a total of 1,172 Filipinos departed the country under a tourist visa as of Wednesday, slightly higher than the 64 who left the same day last week when only essential travel was allowed.

“It could mean that Filipinos still feel hesitant to travel internationally during the pandemic,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

Morente, however, expects the number to increase during the holiday season.

The BI chief also stressed that arrival restrictions remain in place.

“We are monitoring any policy change set by the IATF (Inter-Agency Tas Force) and the Office of the President, and we are ready to implement these as they may deem fit,” he said.

The IATF earlier said non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos will be allowed starting Oct. 21 following certain requirements.

These requirements include the submission of confirmed roundtrip tickets, and adequate travel and health insurance. Departing tourists should also execute a declaration acknowledging risks involved in traveling and must present negative antigen test result taken within 24 hours before their departure.

Currently, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children are allowed to enter the country holding tourist visas. Restrictions likewise allow foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, foreign parent of minor Filipinos, and foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs to enter the country.

Those who are eligible to enter are required to secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates, prior to their arrival.

Apart from said categories, accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas are also allowed.


DTI emphasizes on health protocols, strong Internet when inside malls

Marje Pelayo   •   October 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A surge of shoppers is being anticipated in malls now that the holiday season is approaching.

Recently, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has allowed the conduct of promotional activities or sales events as malls always do in the past before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, however, reminds the public of the strict implementation of health protocols in commercial establishments and to follow the so-called ‘7 Commandments’ – such as wearing of face masks and face shields, sanitation with alcohol or regular handwashing, observing proper physical distance and the ‘no talking and no eating’ rule while walking or roaming around the mall premises.

“Kahit nga minsan less than one meter ang tabi natin sa bawat isa kung tayo’y hindi nagsasalita, hindi kumakain, hindi nagtatanggal ng mask at face shield, may frequent alcohol tayo o hugas, napo-proteksyonan pa rin tayo [Even if we are less than one meter apart, if there’s no talking, eating going on, none of us is taking off his mask or face shield, we do frequent alcohol sanitation or handwashing, we can be protected],” Lopez explained in a short interview with UNTV.

On the part of mall operators, they are required to deploy marshals who will regularly monitor mall goers to ensure that all health protocols are properly observed.

Also, mall establishments must maintain proper ventilation and temperature. 

Lopez stressed that Internet connection must be strong as this will help in the government’s contact tracing efforts against potential transmission of COVID-19.

Kasi kailangan din ang mga WiFi pagdating sa mga contact tracing app/mobile apps na pinapagamit natin [WiFi connection is necessary for the contact tracing app/mobile apps that we are requiring them to us],” Lopez noted.

There is no time limit on the public’s stay inside malls; however, the DTI advises mall-goers to plan ahead and immediately accomplish what needs to be accomplished when shopping.

When dining at restaurants, observe proper social distancing, the official said.

“Magkakalayo, nandoon pa rin ang requirement natin na iyon at hindi pwede iyong tapatan, except kung merong physical barrier o iyong clear glass o acrylic fiber glass [Keep distance, that requirement stays and we do not allow sitting directly face to face unless there is a physical barrier in between like clear glass or acrylic fiberglass], Lopez added.

To date, DTI has not received any report yet of COVID-19 transmission inside malls because of the strict implementation of health protocols. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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