Wearing facemasks, social distancing can help curb COVID-19 spread in PUVs – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2020   •   995

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday reiterated that wearing facemasks and observing social distancing can help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease, especially when riding public utility vehicles.

This was the response of the DOH to the statement of research group IBON Foundation that riding open-air vehicles such as jeepneys would not pose any risk of getting COVID-19.

“The mode of transmission is droplet infection. With our without aircon, basta naka-mask kayo lahat, you are distant to the person next to you at hindi kayo cramped, the possibility of getting infected is very low,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a televised briefing.

The IBON Foundation earlier said that traditional open-air public utility jeepneys are safer for passengers compared with air-conditioned modern jeepneys amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group cited numerous findings of researchers and guidelines from authorities around the world, including:

  • Findings of University of Amsterdam physicists and medical researchers which states that small cough droplets, potentially containing virus particles, can float in the air in a room for many minutes, especially when the room is poorly ventilated;
  • The European Center for Disease Control advise to ensure ventilation in the vehicle/wagon/boat at all times, and avoid recirculating air and encourage the use of windows, skylight panels, and fans to increase replacement with fresh air;
  • Thailand’s transport ministry’s instruction to public transport operators to open windows for good air ventilation
  • China’s advice to public transport groups to have retrofitted window vents to air-conditioned fleets
  • India’s directive enjoining buses to improve ventilation by increasing the frequency of fresh air intake.

IBON Foundation’s executive director Sonny Africa believes these studies will help the cause of jeepney drivers and operators who have been calling for the lifting of ban to operate amid the enforcement of community quarantine.

“Hindi kailanman matatapatan ng mga enclosed modern jeepneys yung sariwang hangin sa modern jeepney. So para dun lamang tingin namin malaking advantange ng mga tradional jeepney sa mga modernized airconditioned jeepney,” he said.

The DOH, however, said there is still a need to reconfigure traditional open-air jeepneys to meet minimum health standards.

“Napakalaki ng risk sa jeepneys dahil ang kanilang sakay ay face to face hindi katulad doon sa bus parang mga upuan na hindi magkakaharap,” Vergeire said.

Old model of public jeepneys are not yet allowed to resume operations under the general community quarantine, based on the guidelines released by the Inter-Agency Task Force.

Modern jeepneys and buses have been allowed to ply the roads again at a limited capacity to accommodate the volume of commuters who have been permitted to return to work amid the crisis.

Malacañang earlier said that the ban on traditional jeepneys may be lifted if the present number of modern jeepneys and buses are insufficient to ferry passengers.

The Department of Transportation also said it is still crafting the guidelines for the resumption of traditional jeepney operations. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

LGUs conduct dry run of COVID-19 vaccination rollout

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The local governments of Quezon City and Valenzuela City have conducted dry run activities for their COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

In Valenzuela City, around 40 residents participated in the dry run, where they went through body temperature checks and disinfection before entering the vaccination site.

They also went through registration and validation before counseling. Counseling covered discussion on the importance of vaccination and its possible side effects. Participants then proceeded to the screening area before vaccination to verify if their health is capable of taking in the vaccine.

According to Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, the dry run is needed to ensure residents are prepared in receiving the vaccines and health protocols are implemented.

Valenzuela City also targets the vaccination rollout to begin in July where 17 vaccination sites will be used.

Meanwhile, the Quezon City Health Department held a demonstration on the vaccination process which includes presenting QCitizen IDs, counseling, and screening. -AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

Duterte rescinds IATF decision, orders 10 to14-year-olds to stay home

Marje Pelayo   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte revoked the earlier decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 (IATF) easing age restrictions in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

Duterte expressed concern that children aged 10 to 14 years old may compromise their safety and the safety of the older sector given that the new strain of coronavirus is said to be more contagious.

“Just to be sure and in our desire to protect our people, napilitan akong (I was compelled) ire-impose ang (the) 10 to 14 (years old restriction). Not at this time. It’s a sacrifice for the parents and for the children. It would limit their movements,” the President said late Monday night (January 25).

Following the president’s announcement, children 10 to 14 years of age are still not allowed to go outside their homes.

This policy, the President said, will remain in effect until the government is sure that the public is safe from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through vaccination.

Last Friday (January 22), the IATF announced its plan to relax age restrictions which is supposed to take effect on February 1.

President Duterte asked for the public’s understanding regarding his latest decision.

Pasensya na po kayo. (I’m sorry.) Mine is just a precaution,” he said. 

Takot lang ako kasi itong bagong (I’m worried because this new) strain strikes the young children,” he added,  reminding the public to continuously follow the standard health and safety protocols as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country remains high.

To date, COVID-19 cases in the country have surpassed the half a million mark.

Meanwhile on Tuesday (January 26), the IATF is expected to come up with a recommendation on the quarantine classifications to be imposed for February.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during Monday’s meeting reported that at this stage, the health care utilization rate in Davao de Oro and Baguio City has reached the critical level while that of Nueva Viscaya and Agusan del Norte are already high. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

49 new COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos — DFA

Marje Pelayo   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday reported 48 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among Filipinos abroad, bringing the total tally to 13,828.

Eight more overseas Filipinos have recovered from the infection, raising the the total number of recoveries to 8,828.

No new fatality was reported, keeping the tally at 945. 

Most of these cases were recorded in the Middle East and Africa.

To date, the total number of countries and territories with confirmed cases among Filipinos remains at 84.

The DFA, together with its foreign service posts, continues to partner with host governments to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipino nationals abroad amid the pandemic.

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