Filipino seafarers now part of gov’t COVID-19 vaccination priority group – DOTr

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2021   •   808

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino seafarers have moved up in the country’s list of priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced.

The DOTr said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved its recommendation to include Filipino sailors in the priority recipients as their work is considered crucial in keeping the economy afloat.

“This is a very good development for our maritime industry champions— our seafarers. Now, our Filipino seafarers will be given priority to be vaccinated,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement.

“Paulit-ulit ko pong inilalarawan ang ating maritime workforce bilang mga silent workers ng bayan. They work silently, yet their contribution is as crucial as keeping the economy thriving. Not only are they frontliners, but they are undoubtedly HEROES, too,” he added.

From under B3 (other essential workers) or B5 (Overseas Filipino Workers) in the vaccination priority framework, Filipino seafarers have been reclassified under A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during ECQ) or the top 4 priority group.

Based on government data, there are a total of 549,000 active seafarers registered in the system. Around 497,000 of which are deployed overseas while 51,000 are serving locally. Meanwhile, a total of 181,000 seafarers are without updated sea service within the last three years.

In summary, there are 730,651 Filipino seafarers who are up for consideration in the A4 category, the DOTr said.

“The working group is in the unified position to push for the prioritization of Filipino seafarers in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program to secure their employment, and to ensure the safe shipping operations of essential goods amid the pandemic,” DOTr Assistant Secretary Narciso Vingson Jr. added.

The DOTr said that top priority will be given to active seafarers or those with recorded sea service within the last three years, while new seafarers or those with last recorded sea service beyond 2018 shall be ranked second.

The national government is targeting to inoculate 70 million people this year but the country has so far received more than three million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Malacañang earlier reported that more than a million Filipinos, mostly healthcare workers, have been inoculated against coronavirus disease.

Israeli experts visit PH COVID-19 vaccination, storage sites

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A team of health experts from Israel on Wednesday visited some vaccination sites and cold chain storage facilities in Metro Manila as part of the efforts to assess and help the Philippine government improve its strategies in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team of Israeli experts inspected a vaccination hub set up at the Solaire Theater in Parañaque City for the private sector, as well as some cold storage facilities being used in the government’s vaccination program.

They were accompanied by Inter-Agency Task Force and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., testing czar Vince Dizon and other government officials.

Roque said the team of experts from Israel is in the country to share their strategies and methods in fighting the pandemic, as well as addressing vaccine hesitancy.

“We need to learn from Israel kasi Israel successfully achieved containment [of the coronavirus] and we want to learn from what they did to achieve containment,” he said.

Galvez earlier said that the Israeli delegation’s visit aims to help the government develop more improved strategies on data management, deployment methods, and transition to new normal.

The NTF and Israeli experts initially met at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday to discuss vaccination and jab logistics management.

Galvez said that so far, the team has shared key strategies to effectively contain virus transmission and reduce active cases within communities.

Roque said a press conference dedicated for the Israeli visitors will be held on Thursday where they can share their observations and recommendations on the Philippines’ vaccination drive.

The Philippine government would adopt some Israeli strategies to further improve the country’s vaccine deployment and data management, he added.

“Ang talagang gusto nilang makita is how we actually implementing the vaccination which is ongoing right now… Alam nyo naman sa Israel wala na ngayong mask in public places dahil mayroon na silang containment, mayroon na silang population protection that’s why they are here as our guest and as our resource person because we want to achieve that state,” Roque said.

The delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Health has been in the Philippines for four days now. They arrived last Sunday and will stay until Friday, June 25. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Janice Ingente)

NCR now low risk for COVID-19; 4 regions at high risk — DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Capital Region (NCR) is now categorized as a low-risk area for COVID-19 amid a decreasing number of infections, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

In an online press briefing, DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman said Metro Manila has been exhibiting a declining virus growth rate in the past two weeks.

“Para po sa NCR, siya po ay na-classify na po ngayon natin at low risk dahil nagpakita siya ng pagbaba ng kaso by 23% in the last 2 weeks,” De Guzman said.

She said that from June 16 to 22, the NCR averaged 685 new cases daily, which is lower than its average of 825 cases from June 9 to 15.

The region’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) was logged at 5.7 cases per 100,000, hospital occupancy rate at 36.29 percent, and intensive care unit utilization rate at 45.83 percent.

Among the NCR Plus 8 areas, Laguna has yet to show a decline in cases, De Guzman said, as she noted that Calabarzon province is still exhibiting a plateau of COVID-19 cases.

The NCR was once the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

“Kung dati nakikita natin na ang NCR ang number 1, in the last few days, it’s region CALABARZON as well as the inclusion of regions and areas from Visayas and Mindanao,” De Guzman said.

In Luzon, De Guzman said, almost all areas have exhibited declining cases except for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

“For Luzon naman po, lahat ng mga lugar ay nagpapakita ng pagbaba ng kaso liban po sa CAR… parang halos flat po ang kaniyang linya,” she said.

While the NCR is now low-risk for COVID-19, four other regions have been flagged as high-risks after showing an increase in cases and bed occupancy rates.

These are Caraga, Regions 6, 11, and 12.

The average daily attack rate (ADAR) of coronavirus in Caraga is at 9.95 cases per 100,000, Region 6 at 8.83, Region 11 at 8.16, and Region 12 at 7.01.

De Guzman said that all four regions logged positive two-week case growth rates while Region 11’s ICU utilization rate was at high or critical risk.

Other areas where ICU occupancy rates have also reached the critical risk classification were Regions 2, 6, 10, and 12.

Nationwide, the trend of COVID-19 cases is showing signs of decline but De Guzman said there is still a need to reduce the number of daily cases as the current figure is still far from the pre-surge levels.

“Although we are happy that these numbers are going down, it is still far from our pre-spike levels of less than 2,000 cases per day nationally,” she said.

She urged the public to help reduce infections by following health protocols such as the proper wearing of face masks and observing physical distancing.

The implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, Reintegrate (PDITR) response at the community level should also be intensified, as well as the contact tracing and vaccination efforts. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Albay LGU calls for additional COVID-19 supply due to surge of cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 23, 2021

The Albay local government is calling for additional vaccine doses for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) amid the surge of cases in the province.

During a virtual public briefing on Wednesday (June 23), Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara reported that the province has recorded 1,958 active cases as of Wednesday.

He also reported that the province has enough machines for their laboratory testing in regional hospitals but there are delays in releasing the test results.

Bichara said there are not enough COVID-19 vaccines delivered to the province.

“Ang dumating sa aming ay 6,000 plus vaccines, pero ang dapat na bakunahan namin ay 46,000 from A1 to A4 [Priority Group],” he said.

(Only 6,000 vaccines arrived but we need to vaccinate 46,000 individuals from the A1 to A4 Priority Group.)

Bichara said vaccinating essential workers is necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus in the province.

The Albay official also belied reports that the region will experience a similar situation in India. He added that several COVID-19 patients prefer private hospitals while others refuse to be isolated in quarantine facilities and would rather stay at home.

“Iyong iba naman maliit ang bahay, mahahawa ang buong pamilya. Kadalasan, ganoon ang nangyayari. Nagkakaroon ng family transmission kaya ubos ang pamilya, puro positive,” he said.

(There is not enough space in some houses so the entire family gets infected. That’s what usually happens. There is family transmission so all the family members are positive)

Meanwhile, Bichara said residents would rather not have the region be placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). He assured that the situation in the region is not as dire compared with other areas. He reported that he met with mayors in the region to discuss stricter guidelines under general community quarantine.

“Pinatigil pa namin ang mga karaoke at may liquor ban. May curfew sa ibang bayan,” he said.

(We imposed a karaoke and liquor ban. There is a curfew in several areas.)

Medical experts in Bicol previously recommended putting the region under heightened quarantine restriction due to the increasing of COVID-19 cases. AAC

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