China partially lifts ban on traffic, resumes production in Hubei

Robie de Guzman   •   March 26, 2020   •   288

China’s Hubei, the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, started returning to normal on Wednesday (March 25) as authorities lifted two months of counter-epidemic restrictions that locked down the province and its capital Wuhan.

Mainland China also reported a drop in new confirmed coronavirus cases as imported infections fell and no locally transmitted infections were reported.

Traffic controls were eased at midnight in Hubei, while the lockdown of Wuhan will be lifted on April 8, a milestone in China’s war against the epidemic as Beijing shifts its focus towards stemming imported cases and rebooting the economy.

People were also able to leave Hubei by train and bus, while the Wudang Mountains, a top scenic site, reopened for visitors, according to state media. Construction work and agriculture production also resumed in the province.

In other parts of the country, authorities have continued to impose tougher screening and quarantine and have diverted international flights from Beijing to other Chinese cities, but that has not stemmed the influx of Chinese nationals, many of whom are students returning home from virus-hit countries. (Reuters)

(Production: Fang Nanlin)

Duterte vouches for China’s Sinovac, says LGUs may choose any vaccine brand

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (January 13) vouched for the efficacy of Sinovac, the COVID-19 vaccine developed in China.

He said the Chinese-made vaccine is “as good as any other” vaccines developed in the United States and Europe.

“Hindi nagkulang ang Chinese sa utak (The Chinese is not lacking in knowledge). They would not venture kung hindi sapat (if it’s not) safe, sure, and secure. Iyang tatlo. It must be safe, sure and secure. That is the guarantee,” the President said.

His remark comes after several local government units (LGUs) opted to choose and procure the brand of their choice other than the ones preferred by the national government. 

“We are not forcing anybody to join the cause of the national government,” Duterte said.

“I am addressing this to the mayors. You can choose any vaccine you like to buy. Wala kaming pakialam kung ano ang pipiliin niyo (We don’t care which one you choose). Hindi kami makialam sa lahat ng bagay in the purchase (We won’t meddle in anything that has to do with the [vaccine] purchase),” he stressed.

But he reminded the local chief executives that it is still the national government that approves whatever medicine or drugs should be made available for public consumption.

The President maintained that he prefers whatever vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez will procure, for after all, he is his representative and that his decision will be the President’s responsibility.

“Ang responsibility niya ay responsibility ko rin. Kung may bulilyaso at the end of the day, akin talaga yang responsibility (His responsibility is my responsibility. If there are problems along the way, at the end of the day, it is my responsibility),” the President stressed.

During the meeting, Galvez confirmed that the national government is set to grant the Chinese drugmaker Sinovac its emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine before February 20.

The official added that initial delivery will be 50,000 doses, followed by 950,000 doses in March then to one to three million in increasing volumes in the succeeding months. 

First 50,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine allotted for health workers — Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the first 50,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccines for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will arrive in the country next month.

The first shipment of vaccines will be allotted for medical frontliners, Roque said.

The Palace official added that the health workers cannot choose their preferred brand of vaccine because the Sinovac shipment is the only vaccine expected to arrive in the country from February to July.

All other brands are expected to arrive in July onwards.

“Pagdating po sa Pebrero hanggang Hunyo, wala po talagang pagpipilian. Kung ayaw ninyo ng Sinovac, well hindi po kayo pipilitin,” Roque said.

 (Come February until June, there are no other brands to choose from. If you don’t want Sinovac, you will not be forced to take it.)

Una pong (The first) 50,000 will all go to health workers. Mauuna po ang priority areas na health workers na mabibigyan (Health workers in priority areas will be the first to receive the vaccine). Pero ang initial agreement po — although hindi pa po ito in a form of resolution — ay uubusin ang lahat ng healthcare workers sa Pilipinas (The initial agreement — although it is not yet in a form of a resolution— is to inoculate all healthcare workers in the Philippines) before we move on to the next sector,” he added.

Since the inoculation program of the government is free and voluntary, those who are included in the priority list who refuse to be vaccinated will have to sign a waiver, particularly the healthcare workers and senior citizens.

They will have to wait for another vaccine along with the general population, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Kung mayroong maa-identify tayong medical frontliners (If there are medical frontliners) for example, who do not wish to be vaccinated, ang mangyayari niyan is, (what will happen is) we will have them sign some sort of waiver or understanding, or a document that they understand the implications of them wavering their slot to get vaccinated,” he said.

“Magiging magulo kung magka-kanya-kanya tayo ng pili ( It would be troublesome if everyone will insist on their preferred brand), then we have to put some order in terms of the queue,” he added.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said they are willing to be vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine. It is approved by the FDA and if they are allowed to be vaccinated according to the prioritization list of the government.

“If we are included in the list of priorities, yes of course. Any type of vaccine as long as it enters the country and it has been issued EUA by the Food and Drug Administration, we are confident that it’s going to be safe and effective,” Vergeire added.

Sinovac Biotech ltd., has yet to apply for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Philippine regulator. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Philippines includes China, 4 other countries in travel ban list

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang announced Tuesday (January 12) that the Philippine government is expanding its travel ban to include China and four other countries amid threats of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that apart from China, travelers from Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman are also not allowed to enter the country starting Wednesday (January 13) to Friday (January 15).

The expansion of travel restriction is part of the country’s measures to prevent the entry of new variants of coronavirus that were initially reported affecting residents in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

With five additional nations on the list, the Philippines so far has banned flights to and from 33 countries.

READ: PH expands entry restrictions, bans travelers from the US effective Jan. 3

However, the government clarified that Filipinos coming from the said countries may be allowed entry subject to a 14-day absolute facility-based quarantine period. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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