Teachers should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, UNICEF says

Robie de Guzman   •   August 30, 2021   •   468

Teachers and school employees should be included in groups prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations to allow the return of children to schools around the globe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

In a statement on Monday, UNICEF said the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on children’s education, and vaccinating teachers is a critical step towards putting it back on track.

“UNICEF is calling for teachers to be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once frontline health personnel and high-risk populations are vaccinated. This will help protect teachers from the virus, allow them to teach in person, and ultimately keep schools open,” the UN agency said.

UNICEF said that in late April 2020, school closures disrupted the learning of almost 90 percent of students worldwide.

While that number has dropped since, the agency noted that there continues to be an “unsupported assumption that closing schools may slow the spread of the disease, despite increasing evidence that schools are not the main driver of community transmission.”

“As a result, as cases are skyrocketing in many countries around the world, communities are again closing schools. As of 1 December, classrooms are closed for nearly 1 in 5 schoolchildren globally – or 320 million children,” it said.

While the agency recognized that decisions about vaccine allocation ultimately rest with governments, it stressed that the consequences of extended missed or impaired education are steep, especially for the most marginalized.

“The longer children remain out of school, the less likely they are to return, and the more difficult it is for their parents to resume work,” it said.

“These are difficult decisions that force difficult tradeoffs. But what should not be difficult is the decision to do everything in our power to safeguard the future of the next generation. This begins by safeguarding those responsible for opening that future up for them,” it added.

Some countries have closed schools amid the rapid spread of the more contagious coronavirus variants.

In the Philippines, some groups have been pushing for the resumption of limited in-person classes in areas with little to no COVID-19 cases for students’ better learning.

PH gov’t intensifying readiness vs terror threat amid Japan warning – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday assured that the military and police forces are intensifying their readiness against any possible threat to national security.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque gave the assurance following the advisory issued by the government of Japan for its residents to avoid crowded areas and religious ins six Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.

“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa impormasyon. Pero lalo lang po nating pinaiigting ang ating kahandaan para po harapin ang posibleng terroristic attack muli,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

The Palace official said state forces have been on heightened alert since the Marawi siege happened in 2017.

Roque, however, urged the public to be vigilant and to immediately report any suspicious individuals and activities in their areas.

“Nakahanda naman po ang ating kapulisan at ang ating Hukbong Sandatahan at hinihiling din atin ang kooperasyon ng ating mga mamamayan. I-report po ninyo sa kapulisan kung mayroon kayong kaduda-dudang mga personalidad o di naman kaya mga kadudang mga bagay-bagay lalo na sa mga pampublikong lugar,” he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police earlier said they have not monitored any terror threat but are working to validate the information.

Aside from the Philippines, the warning issued by the Japanese government also covers Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia.

Philippines won’t cooperate with ICC probe, Palace maintains

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday maintained that the Philippine government will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines and its decision to authorize an investigation into the killings under the government’s war on drugs is interference into the country’s domestic affairs.

He also stressed that the country has already withdrawn from the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the ICC.

In March 2019, the Philippines effectively withdrew from the Rome Statute after Duterte cancelled the country’s membership of the ICC’s founding treaty.

Under the ICC’s withdrawal mechanism, the court retains jurisdiction over crimes committed during the membership period of a state.

The ICC on Wednesday said that its Pre-Trial Chamber 1 has granted then Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to formally conduct a full investigation into the Philippines’ drug war.

Bensouda previously argued that there is a reasonable basis to believe that murder has been committed in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of the state policy.

But Panelo said the ICC can only conduct an investigation if the state’s judicial system is no longer functional, which is not the case in the Philippines.

It must also be proven that the state is unwilling to prosecute suspects in order for the ICC to launch a probe.

Panelo said ICC probers will not be allowed to enter the Philippines. He also believes that the investigation was politically motivated.

COVID-19 reproduction rate in NCR slows down to 1.28 – OCTA

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The reproduction number of coronavirus disease in the National Capital Region (NCR) has improved in the past few days, the OCTA Research Group said Thursday.

In a report posted on Twitter, OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David noted that NCR’s reproduction number, which refers to the average number of secondary infections by each positive case, eased to 1.28 from Sept. 9 to 15.

This rate is lower than the 1.39 reported during the period covering Sept. 2 to 8.

David also noted that the one-week growth rate of NCR dipped to 9 percent from Sept. 8 to 15, compared to the 14 percent recorded from Sept. 2 to 8.

“Kapag bumaba iyong reproduction number kumakaunti ang hawaan, bumabagal ang hawaan. The growth rate will also decrease like ngayon sa NCR, 1.28 reproduction number growth rate is 9% kapag bumaba ang reproduction number to 1 iyong growth rate naman pababa to 0% then magiging negative,” David said in an interview.

“Kapag negative na ang growth rate ibig sabihin kumakaunti na ang cases natin… In fact, nationally 6% na lang ang nadagdag,” he added.

David also said that the capital region recorded an average of 5,819 cases per day over the past week, while the daily attack rate per 100,000 population climbed to 41.66 from the previous 38.24. It also registered a positivity rate of 25 percent.

He noted that the NCR has not yet peaked but there is hope that it may happen in one or two weeks.

“We might be getting close to the peak nationally… That’s why we have renewed again hope that we might not hit 30,000,” he said.

“Most likely today we’ll see 20,000+ cases […] even up to 21,000 to 22,000 but we hope na it will be controlled in the sense it will not exceed the previous high 25,000-26,000. Maybe the trend will start to decrease,” he added.

David also expressed hope that the country’s health system will be able to take a breather by next month if the downward trend continues.

“Based on the trends that we are seeing, by October I am predicting —hindi ito projection, may kasamang hope and prayer — that by October, downward trend na tayo,” he said.

“Pero iyong hospitalization will still remain high for foreseeable future up to the next few weeks,” he added.

He, however, called on the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health and quarantine protocols to help curb COVID-19 infections.

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