“Door-to-door” testing helped China control epidemic, says expert

UNTV News   •   March 26, 2020   •   407

As much of the world goes into tighter coronavirus-induced lockdown, China, where the virus outbreak was first reported, is doing the opposite in many areas.

Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, ended two months of lockdown on Wednesday (March 25) across most of the province. Wuhan, which has been the worst-hit city in China, will lift its lockdown on April 8.

Likewise, more and more people are returning to work across the country and some of China’s premier tourist sites, such as the Great Wall have partially re-opened.

It is in this context that two leading experts, one in Hong Kong and one in Beijing, spoke to Reuters this week to discuss their views on China’s strategy in dealing with the outbreak.

“In China, one of the very successful components of their strategy in Wuhan was going into the community, door-to-door, looking for people with symptoms,” said Professor Benjamin John Cowling, a public health and infectious diseases expert at the University of Hong Kong.

“Knocking on the doors. Checking their temperature. Test them. And if they are symptomatic isolate them and quarantine their family members, and that was really a very effective way to find all sorts of people even with mild symptoms,” said Cowling.

Tsinghua University’s Professor Xue Lan is one of China’s leading experts on public policy. He is also a member of the expert committee of National Coordination Mechanism for Controlling COVID-19, which consults for China’s National Health Commission (NHC).

Xue said the key factors in China’s virus management have been “decisive” government policy such as the sudden Wuhan lockdown in late January and also the willingness of the population to cooperate in containing the epidemic. That’s because of their experience of outbreaks like SARS and H1N1 flu as well as a cultural factor, Xue added, which means the Chinese may be more likely to observe strict rules.

“I think that this is perhaps a cultural characteristic of people in East Asia,” Xue said. “People here are more willing to work towards the needs of the group.”

However, he also noted that with the strict stay-home measures, there could be a higher chance of spreading the virus between family members stuck in the same home.

In recent weeks, China has reported a steady fall in new domestically transmitted cases of coronavirus, but a steady stream of new imported cases. On Thursday (March 26) the NHC said that there were 67 new cases reported as of end-Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all involving people arriving from abroad, putting the total accumulated number of confirmed coronavirus cases to date at 81,285. The NHC also reported a total of 3,287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up by six from the previous day.

Such figures along with reports of asymptomatic cases not being included in China’s figures have added to fears domestically that China could be facing a “second wave” of the outbreak.

“We know that if life goes back to normal,” Cowling said, “there will be re-introductions of infections, there will be transmission and there will be a second wave. I’m not sure there’s really a recognition of that so far.”

If there is no big “second wave” of cases soon and current trends of low domestically transmitted cases continue, then China is likely to continue to phase out some of its virus control measures, such as the ubiquitous temperature checks, Xue said. However international travel restrictions are likely to persist until other countries have also got the virus under control, he said.

However, life as we know it may not return to normal, in both the short and long term, Xue said.

“I think from now on our social lives will enter a new normal.”

“Perhaps there will be limitations on those events or occasions with lots of people crowded together. However people should be fine to go about their daily life activities, such as university students returning to campus to have class as normal,” he added. (Reuters)

(Production: Martin Pollard, Irene Wang, Aleksander Solum, Travis Teo)

Duterte ‘inclined to extend’ Luzon lockdown to April 30

Marje Pelayo   •   April 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Luzon residents may have to endure two more weeks at home as President Rodrigo Duterte considers extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

In his public address on Monday evening (April 6), the President asked the public for more patience and understanding and to be more cooperative with the national government in the face of a health crisis brought about by the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“We are inclined to extend the lockdown up to April 30,” the Chief Executive announced.

Tingnan natin after that [Let’s see after that]. In the meantime, double time kami,” he added.

The President, likewise, reiterated his call for the public to stay at home as the solution to this global pandemic is simply to “not get infected.”

He noted the sad reality of COVID-19 patients passing without having a funeral service as their remains go straight to cremation.

Duterte admitted that even the national government is getting ‘desperate’ as it has limited resources to distribute to millions of Filipinos affected by the crisis.

The President added that the P275-B budget that Congress authorized him to spend is not enough and would be gone in two months.

Thus, he asked the Department of Finance to find ways to generate revenues.

“We are finding ways to adjust the budget. We will prioritize the people, the stomach. If they have nothing to eat, a human being can become violent,” he added.

He appealed to those who have more to give to those in need and asked the Filipino people to pray for the country and the world in the face of this global pandemic.

“I am calling on the nation to come together and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Filipino and unite in one prayer to God to fight our common enemy,” he concluded. MNP (with input from Rosalie Coz)

PNP to implement 50-50 work scheme due to COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 6, 2020

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will implement a 50-50 work scheme among personnel who are based at the national headquarters in Camp Crame.

This is due to the rising number of PNP personnel who have become patients under investigation (PUI) and persons under monitoring (PUM) of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat.

The 50-50 work scheme would use 50 percent or the first batch of personnel to go on duty at the administrative office until April 19 while the second batch will go on duty from April 20 to May 3.

According to a memorandum issued on April 4, the heads of offices/units with essential functions shall determine the work scheme applicable to the personnel, as long as they should observe a 14-day self-quarantine/isolation as part of the PNP’s health protocol.

“Maaaring magpatupad sila ng kani-kanilang scheduling para hindi naman maapektuhan ang ating normal functions,” said PNP Spokesperson Bernard Banac.

Meanwhile, police personnel who are aged 45 years old and above will have to be pulled out from the checkpoint areas.

“Mas vulnerable sila sa COVID-19 (They are more vulnerable to COVID-19),” Banac said.

The PNP will also launch Admin Support to COVID-19 Task Force (ASCoTF) to ensure an organized and speedy logistics, response, and development of frontliners.

The PNP has already recorded 19 police personnel that tested positive for COVID-19 with two deaths.

The total number of persons under monitoring (PUMs) in the PNP has already reached more than 1,300. — AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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UK PM Johnson admitted to hospital as Britain enters third week of lockdown

UNTV News   •   April 6, 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in hospital in London on Monday (April 6) suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus, but Downing Street said he remained in charge of the government.

Johnson, 55, had been isolating in Downing Street after testing positive for the virus last month, was taken to hospital on Sunday night because he still had a high temperature and his doctors felt he needed additional tests.

Meanwhile, Britain entered its third week in lockdown with authorities warning they will have to impose further restrictions on outdoor exercise if people continued to flout rules designed to curb transmission of the virus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “unbelievable” to see a small minority flouting the government’s advice to maintain social-distancing.

Hancock said if people did not follow the rules, which allow people to walk, run or cycle outdoors once a day but not sunbathe, he would have to ban exercise of all forms outside the home.

He said the timetable to ease restrictions – the lockdown exit strategy – could only be agreed once the spread of the coronavirus had been brought under control.

Other European countries such as Italy and France have imposed tougher restrictions on people leaving their homes. (REUTERS CONNECT)

(Production: Gerhard Mey, Ben Makori.)

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