Senator Bong Go, several Cabinet execs to go on quarantine after exposure to virus-infected solon
Robie de Guzman • March 26, 2020 • 459
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Bong Go and several members of the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte will undergo a self-quarantine after exposure to a congressman who recently tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In a statement issued Wednesday, Go said they have initiated contact tracing, particularly those present during the meeting he attended last Saturday.
“Wala naman po akong nararamdamang sintomas ng sakit. But since protocol requires that those who were directly exposed to persons positive for COVID-19 need to undergo self-quarantine, I am left with no choice but to comply,” Go said.
ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap’s confirmation that he contracted the coronavirus disease only came days after getting tested on March 15.
He apologized to those whom he may have exposed to the virus when he attended some meetings while his test results were still pending.
The congressman revealed he led a meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations on March 10; he also attended a meeting in Malacañang on March 21, as well as the House of Representatives’ special session on March 23.
House lawmakers who were exposed to Yap during the special session have been placed under home quarantine.
Cabinet members who were physically present during the meeting in Malacañang last Saturday also decided to undergo self-quarantine.
These include Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who serves as the spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), will also undergo a self-quarantine due to second-level exposure.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, on the other hand, said he had no contact with Yap during the meeting, and that he was wearing a face mask and observed social distancing.
The officials assured they will continue to perform their tasks and attend meetings via teleconferencing to discuss matters relating to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday (July 6) he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus, after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.
Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs “clean.”
CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday.
The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.
Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate in March. (Reuters)
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has called on the government to also provide support for displaced workers heavily affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, especially those in industries that cannot resume operations due to social distancing and community quarantine measures.
In a statement in Tuesday, Go said workers engaged in live events, entertainment industry, as well as those engaged in businesses that cannot operate at this time, must be given utmost attention by the government.
“Dahil sa COVID-19, may mga industriya talagang hindi makapag-operate ngayon. Bawal ang pagtitipon kaya tulad nung mga nasa live events organizing, kailangan maghanap ng ibang pagkakakitaan,” he said.
“Bukod pa diyan, ang mga tao sa entertainment industry ay apektado rin po, lalong lalo na ‘yung ordinaryong manggagawa tulad nung parte ng mga production crew bilang halimbawa. Ito po ‘yung mga kababayan nating bumubuhay sa industriya ng sining na ngayon ay hirap makabalik sa kabuhayan nila,” he added.
The live events industry consists of events, like meetings, conferencing, exhibitions, concerts involving international and local artists, theatrical productions, corporate, social, cultural, fashion, sporting, and club events, weddings and family celebrations, trade fairs and exhibits, and on-ground activation and sampling activities.
“Tulungan nating mapagaan ang pinapasan ng mga nasa ganitong uri ng industriya. Wala pong dapat mapabayaan sa panahon ngayon,” Go added.
The senator also expressed hope that once the health situation improves and the spread of COVID-19 is under control, more provinces and cities under modified general community quarantine can provide guidelines for these industries to resume operations in accordance with health protocols.
Go, former long-time aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, also urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Labor and Employment, and other concerned agencies to look into the situation of and provide assistance programs for the displaced workers.
He also suggested events businesses to avail of emergency loans and financing program for micro, small and medium enterprises.
The DTI is presently implementing COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) program, which aims to help enterprises stabilize or recover from losses due to the health crisis.
The National Live Events Coalition (NLEC) recently appealed for government assistance for their members, highlighting that the live events industry, comprised of businesses and industry professionals, institutions, agencies, technical and staging providers, concert and festival producers, wedding and social events planners, venues, performers and freelance production workforce, have faced lost opportunities and revenues due to COVID-19.
Live events organizing is a multi-billion industry that provides employment to several thousands. The NLEC said the industry is composed of 30,000 MSMEs.
Some MSMEs related to the industry may have to close down or operate only at 10% capacity.
Although the live events industry is not specified in the latest Senate version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, Go is urging the administration’s economic managers to look into the matter and explore more opportunities for the government to extend help to this sector in these trying times.
“May mga provisions sa Senate version ng Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) para sa mga subsidies, loan programs at iba pang social assistance na pwedeng makatulong sa mga empleyado ng ganitong industriya,” Go said.
As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.
The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.
As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.
“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.
For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.
Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.
The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.
Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.
“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.
He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.
The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.
That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.
The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.
Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.
“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.
Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.
Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)
(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)
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