DOLE to impose four-day work week starting March 16

Marje Pelayo   •   March 12, 2020   •   2928

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced on Wednesday (March 11) a four-day work week in all its offices starting Monday (March 16).

Based on DOLE Administration Order No. 99, the four-day work week will be implemented from DOLE’s Central Office in Intramuros, Manila to its Regional Offices, Bureaus and Field Offices.

Likewise, all of DOLE’s attached agencies including the Employees Compensation Commission, Institute for Labor Studies, Occupational Safety and Health Center, National Conciliation and Mediation Board, National Labor Relations Commission, National Maritime Polytechnic, National Wages and Productivity Commission, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Professional Regulation Commission, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration are also covered by the order.

Under the new policy, DOLE offices will be operating from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, from Monday to Thursday only.

“This is a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 922,” the DOLE said in its advisory.

No photo description available.

Robocop-style helmets help Rome airport check passenger temperatures from a distance

UNTV News   •   May 7, 2020

Helmets are a common sight in Rome, worn by the thousands of vespa riders whizzing around the ancient city.

But now you’ll see them inside the main international airport too.

Fiumicino is now the first in Europe to use ‘smart helmets’ to check the temperature of travellers – helmets equipped with portable thermoscanners that can screen people for symptoms of the new coronavirus at a very safe distance of up to 7 metres.

Airport staff wear the big black Robocop-style helmets along with masks, gloves and their uniforms – and like the 1987 icon, they too are helping to protect their citizens.

Attached to the helmets are a camera and a thermoscanner that can measure body temperature.

A view of the scan is transmitted to the visor inside the augmented reality helmet, so whoever is wearing it can see the full body scan right in front of their eyes.

“This is a smart helmet, a helmet equipped with a thermal camera capable of detecting the infrared heat emissions of bodies passing through its range and a normal camera,” explained Massimiliano Moretto, senior engineer of Sielte Spa, one of the companies that developed the helmet.

“It is able to detect the temperature of the single person but also of groups and can signal to the operator if there is a person with a temperature above a threshold set by the Italian National Institute of Health,” he said.

So far, three smart helmets are operational in the airport, used by staff walking around the terminals.

They hope to increase the number to five in the near future as passengers gradually begin to start travelling again.

The same type of helmets are already in use in airports in Asia.

Fiumicino airport has ramped up its safety measures after Italy began ‘phase two’ on Monday (May 4), a gradual lifting of its strict lockdown measures that have been in place for almost two months, sanitising every nook and cranny of the terminals from the roads outside to the suitcase trollies.

Fiumicino is Italy’s busiest. In 2019 it had over 43.5 million passengers and in January of this year, there were over 2.7 million passengers in just one month.

Since the COVID-19 crisis, passengers are down by over 95 percent compared to the same period last year. The airport closed Terminal 1 in March and has massively downsized their boarding areas.

Despite the slight relaxation of the rules, the airport was still near-deserted on Wednesday (May 6), after two months of being virtually closed for business while tourists are banned from entering and Italians stay at home. (Reuters)

(Production: Cristiano Corvino, Emily Roe)

Doctors treat first U.S. coronavirus patients with convalescent plasma therapy

UNTV News   •   April 10, 2020

U.S. hospitals desperate to help very sick patients with COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, are trying a treatment first used in the 1890s that relies on blood plasma donated by recovered patients.

People who survive an infectious disease like COVID-19 are generally left with blood containing antibodies, or proteins made by the body’s immune system to fight off a virus. The blood component that carries the antibodies can be collected and given to newly infected patients – it is known as “convalescent plasma.”

More than 454,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, more than 16,000 have died as of Thursday (April 9), according to Johns Hopkins University.

Convalescent plasma treatment is not new. It was successfully used during the 1918 flu pandemic.

“Plasma has a good track record in the past, but coronavirus is a new disease,” said Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Dr. Arturo Casadevall.

“We’re going to have to learn how to use it. And even though it is encouraging, and even some of the early reports are positive, I think I think that we need to be rigorous in our thinking and to test this appropriately with clinical trials.”

Casadevall is one of the doctors leading the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

“This is going to be something that will hopefully help us stem the epidemic, but by no means is a panacea,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of things to conquer coronavirus, including vaccines, drugs, better antibodies, a lot of things in the future. This is just one of the many options that could help us.”

On March 28, two hospitals in the U.S. began treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma; Houston Methodist and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Ania Wajnberg directs Mount Sinai’s Serum Antibody Program.

“About 35 patients have received plasma at Mount Sinai. The first one was not even two weeks ago, about a week and a half ago. So we don’t yet have enough data to say our findings, but we are hopeful that this is going to be helpful for these patients. We are tracking them incredibly carefully for their clinical progress, and other data that we use to monitor and hopefully in about two weeks we will be able to tell you and the world what we’re finding so far.”

The convalescent plasma therapy process takes up to 90 minutes, and plasma from a single donor can be used to treat three or four patients.

Donors must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and need to wait a defined period of time after they test negative for the disease before donating plasma. Tests are also being developed to measure antibody volume.

Wajnberg said the trials will seek to answer several questions: “Can they be reinfected or not? How long will they remain immune? How long will they remain at a high level versus a low level? Those are all things that we plan to look at, and have huge implications on our healthcare workforce and potentially the workforce of the world as we reopen society.”

In one trial in China, levels of the virus in five seriously ill COVID-19 patients were undetectable after plasma transfusions, according to study results published in late March in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I think we’re going to learn more and more as we go,” said Wajnberg. “We just need to monitor them for a couple of weeks and see how they do.”

“What I will tell you so far is that we haven’t seen any bad side effects, which is also really important when you’re starting a new treatment. So that’s encouraging and I hope in like the next two weeks, we’ll have more data to share,” she said. “Ultimately our goal is to see them recover.” (Reuters)

(Production: Angela Moore)

FDA warns public vs use of drugs, vaccines with unproven COVID-19 treatment claims

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public against using medicines or vaccines that have not been proven safe and effective in the treatment of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Currently there are no registered drugs or vaccines that are licensed specifically for use in COVID-19 treatment or prevention,” the FDA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The FDA said there are on-going clinical trials to investigate the safety and efficacy of new and existing drugs, such as anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents for the treatment of COVID-19 infected individuals.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) recently launched the Solidarity Trial, a large-scale clinical trial participated by many countries (including the Philippines), which aims to identify evidenced-based treatment regimen for COVID-19,” the agency said.

It also said that manufacturers and vendors of unlicensed products such as PRODEX B and the Fabunan Antiviral Injections have been informed regarding the process and requirements to register their products with the FDA Center for Drug Regulation and Research (CDRR).

“No applications for product registration have been filed to date,” the FDA said.

“Until such products are proven safe and effective for use in the treatment of COVID-19 they cannot be dispensed to the public nor can therapeutic claims be made,” it added.

The agency assured it would continue to ensure the safety and efficacy of products to protect public health and commits to cooperate with all agencies to ensure prompt response to this global health crisis.

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