UST suspends classes, office work until April 11 amid rising COVID-19 cases

Robie de Guzman   •   April 5, 2021   •   290

MANILA, Philippines – The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) in Manila on Monday announced the extension of the suspension of classes and office work until April 11, Sunday amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“In order to allow our stakeholders to focus on their health and family concerns in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases, the suspension of classes and office work is extended to Sunday, April 11,” the university’s Office of the Secretary-General said in an advisory.

Posted by University of Santo Tomas on Sunday, April 4, 2021

The university earlier canceled onsite work until April 11 due to the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region and four nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.

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OCTA urges PH gov’t not to lift MECQ in NCR+ just yet

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – COVID-19 restrictions being enforced in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces should not be eased yet despite the declining spread of the viral respiratory disease, the OCTA Research Group said Friday.

OCTA Research Fellow Nicanor Austriaco said the NCR’s current reproduction number is at 0.98 from April 16 to 22.

He stressed that the less than one reproduction number should be sustained for several weeks before lifting the community quarantine restrictions.

“You have to sustain the R below one for at least several weeks, and this will take a careful planning with the length of the MECQ,” Austriaco said in an online briefing.

“We urge the national government, as one possible benchmark for changing quarantine levels, is not to exit the MECQ until at least the R is less than .9 in a sustained manner,” he added.

OCTA noted that the average daily cases in the NCR in the past seven days are now at 4,200 compared to 5,200 cases recorded two weeks ago.

However, Austriaco said this is still “somewhat unstable” because not all local government units in the NCR have reported decreasing cases.

“You always have the possibilities that as some LGUs recover, there will be an outbreak in one LGU that will spill over to the adjacent LGUs,” he said.

“We are looking for a consistent pattern of decrease throughout all the 17 LGUs for a significant period of time before we know we have successfully passed through the surge,” he added.

Austriaco also emphasized that hospitals also need to be decongested before restrictions can be further eased.

“How fast we decongest our hospitals depends upon he sustained reproduction number that we are able to maintain in the next few weeks,” he said.

The NCR and four provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna have been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine until April 30.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that the government is not yet satisfied with the current decline in cases.

It also remains unclear on whether the MECQ in the NCR Plus will be lifted or extended after April 30 as the Inter-Agency Task Force is still evaluating the current COVID-19 situation in the country before it submits a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DOLE to hire 1,000 additional contact tracers for Metro Manila

Marje Pelayo   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will hire up to 6,000 contact tracers to help in the government’s response against COVID-19.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that from the initial 4,000 recruits, the government is now planning to hire 1,000 additional  contact tracers for Metro Manila.

Bello said DOLE  has allotted an additional P65 million for the mass hiring, bringing the program’s total budget to P295 million.

The official explained that such augmentation is necessary as the demand for contact tracers especially in Metro Manila has been high.

“Kailangang-kailangan talaga ng ating mga contact tracer lalong lalo na dito sa NCR at saka sa apat na bubble,” Bello said.

As of Thursday (April 22), the number of applicants for the position has reached more than 10,000.

Bello said training for the contact tracers will begin on Monday (April 26). Accepted applicants will start their duty on May 1.

Each contact tracer will receive a monthly salary of P16,000 or up to P45,000 for three months. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PhilHealth’s debit-credit payment method now applies to all COVID-19 high, critical risk areas – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has approved the application of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) debit-credit payment method (DCPM) in areas with high-risk and critical COVID-19 situation nationwide, Malacañang said Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) approved the policy on Thursday, April 22.

Roque said the move was made as high-risk and critical risk areas will also be prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccine allocation, human health resource deployment, and other relevant COVID-19 response measures, as applicable.

Prior to the IATF’s order, PhilHealth, under its Circular 2021-0004, provides for the use of payment method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to healthcare facilities during the State of Public Health Emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth initially applied DCPM only to areas identified by the IATF, particularly in the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.

Roque said the IATF likewise directed the National Task Force (NTF) Task Group Treat, through the One COVID Referral System, to utilize the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) projections on target beds and human resources for health.

“These projections shall identify health capacity needs required to lower health care and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates,” he said.

“The NTF shall also review and implement the recommended Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat- Reintegrate strategies to reduce the health utilization rates and augment the needs of human resources for health,” he added.

Roque said that the task group will also identify target additional beds on a weekly basis that will substantially reduce health care and ICU utilization rates, determine and list specific health facilities and infrastructure to contribute these additional beds, and operationalize how these beds become functional with adequate human resources for health and equipment.

The Palace official earlier said that the government is eyeing to add 200 more ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

“The NTF shall further engage the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to develop training and instructional materials of available COVID-19 response frameworks to enhance the enforcement of COVID-19 strategies at the barangay level,” Roque said.

The said materials shall be cascaded to the barangay, purok, sitio, and zone levels through the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the regional counterparts of the NTF for immediate and intensified implementation through barangay empowerment, he added.

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