Senators urge DOH, LGUs to distribute face masks for free to ashfall-hit areas

Robie de Guzman   •   January 13, 2020   •   780

Villagers take shelter inside a church during an eruption of Taal Volcano, in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines, 12 January 2020. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Monday urged the Department of Health (DOH) and local government units to distribute face masks and other similar protective gear for free to people affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

In a statement, Senator Nancy Binay called on the DOH to include protective masks in relief packages to be distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and affected local government units.

“Sana i-prioritize ng DOH ang agarang pamimigay ng masks pati na rin mga gamot para maprotektahan ang mga kababayan natin,” Binay said, adding that children and those with respiratory and other health conditions should be given priority.

She also added that the government should enlist the help of the private sector in procuring masks as well as other supplies that would protect affected citizens.

She also slammed the “enterprising” attitude of traders and hoarders that have taken advantage of the situation and exacerbated the lack of supply.

“Sana naman huwag natin sinasamantala ang ganitong mga krisis para lang kumita. Sana mas manaig ang pagbabayanihan at pagkawanggawa sa mga ganitong sitwasyon,” Binay said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also urged the DOH and local government units to use their stock of face masks and protective equipment and provide them for free to people who need them the most, such as families in badly-affected areas, first responders, and the immunocompromised such as the sick elderly and very young.  

“No expense is too high to ensure thkkkkkke safety and good health of our people, especially in this time of need,” she said in a press statement.

The lawmaker also called on the public not to overstock and hoard supplies of face masks “so that everyone in the metro will get the protection needed to avoid serious health risks when we go outside of our homes.”

“Ngayong panahon ng sakuna, unahin natin ang kaligtasan at kalusugan ng lahat,” she said.

“This shameful profiteering by businesses at the expense of the health of others must stop,” she added.

Senator Sonny Angara, meanwhile, renewed his call for the establishment of an agency dedicated to dealing with all of the challenges brought about by natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons.

The Senate Bill 331 or the proposed disaster resilience act of 2019 calls for the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience that will be the country’s lead agency on all matters related to disasters and climate change.

The bill proposes that during times of disaster, the said department will be tasked to undertake the necessary measures to ensure the protection of the people, including preemptive and forced evacuations. It is also mandated to develop and implement programs on disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building better.

Angara also called on communities to heed official advisories and take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families’ health.

“We call on all the agencies concerned to provide the necessary assistance to the affected areas,” he added.

DOH to include PUV drivers in expanded COVID-19 testing

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) will include additional groups in its expanded testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Aside from the elderly, frontliners, and the immunocompromised, the expanded testing will also cover the PUV drivers, operators, and employees of manufacturing companies.

The DOH said there will be four subgroups for the expanded testing. Subgroup G includes residents in areas with active COVID-19 transmission. Subgroup H will be frontliners in tourist zones while Subgroup I are for employees of manufacturing companies and public service providers.

Subgroup J covers economy workers including PUV drivers, conductors, pilots, waiters, restaurant managers, cashiers, bank tellers, teachers, and security guards.

The Health Department aims to release the updated testing guidelines by next week. DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said the additional groups show the increasing testing capacity of the country.

“Alam natin na gusto na natin unti-unting buksan ang ating ekonomiya (We all know that we want to slowly open our economy) and this is part of how we will be opening our economy,” she said.

Vergeire, meanwhile, advised individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 positive patients to undergo isolation while waiting for their own test result.

“Even if the results are not out, they have to comply with the quarantine procedure of having to be isolated for 14 days,” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Duque: We successfully flattened the curve since April

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 15, 2020

The Philippines has successfully flattened the curve since April, according to the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The Health Secretary said the number of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases stabilized from 210 to 220 per day.

“So over time we have been able to stabilize the number of new cases being reported anywhere 210-220 per day. This is the clarification I would like to make,” he said.

Duque said the doubling time of cases and mortality also slowed down. He explained the doubling time went down from around two days to eight days.

“I mentioned that on basis of case doubling time that has actually become longer beyond 7 days, anywhere from 8-12 days. This is an improvement from the initial phase of the outbreak, where case doubling time is about 2.5 days,” according to Duque.

However, former special adviser to the COVID-19 National Task Force (NTF) Dr. Anthony Leachon said the DOH should review their data.

As of July 14, the DOH reported 634 new cases, increasing the total number of cases to 57,545. The Philippines also previously recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a day with 2,434 tallied last July 5.

“I don’t think we have flattened the curve based on our increase in cases, number of deaths, and full critical care capacity of NCR and Cebu hospitals,” he said in a tweet.

Senator Miguel Zubiri also slammed Duque for his remark and said daily cases increased to over a thousand and the Philippines is soon becoming number one is Southeast Asia in terms of COVID-19 cases.

“The only thing that is flat are the backs of all the poor patients in fully occupied COVID-19 wards all around Metro Manila fighting for their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a message, Duque said COVID-19 cases in April declined after implementing Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). He also added that COVID-19 cases increased due to the expanded COVID-19 testing. —AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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)

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