Fireworks-related injuries prompt renewed calls for ban

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020   •   473

Medical personnel at East Ave Medical Center, Quezon City checks 11-year-old Justin Villafando, who was hit by a firecracker PVI/ Paul Junel aquino

MANILA, Philippines – Some lawmakers have renewed their calls to ban the sale and use of firecrackers in the country in support of the proposal of the Department of Health (DOH) to have zero injuries in the future.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said a firecracker ban will accelerate the decline in New Year celebration-related injuries and air pollution levels.

“Bagama’t naging bahagi na ng ating tradisyon ang pagpapaputok tuwing Bagong Taon, walang saysay ang pagpapanatili sa mga ito kung nalalagay naman sa panganib ang ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga kabataan,” Gatchalian said.

The DOH on Wednesday reported at least 164 individuals sustained injuries related to fireworks since December 21, 2019 until the New Year festivities on January 1, 2020.

This figure is lower by 87 cases from the previous year’s record of 251.

Data from the DOH also revealed that the National Capital Region has recorded the most number of cases with 84, followed by CALABARZON with 13 cases.

Most of the victims were male between the ages of one and 71 years old. They sustained blasts and burns, which totaled 71 cases reported. This was followed by eye injuries with 26 cases.

Most of the injuries were due to kwitis, luces, fountain, piccolo, and baby rocket.

The DOH noted that legal firecrackers caused 69 percent of all injuries.

The agency earlier stressed that all firecrackers and fireworks, including the legal ones, can cause injuries. Banning the sale and use of these firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices can help achieve the target of zero casualty.

“Sa pagbubukas ng bagong taon, lagi nating hinihiling ang maayos na kalusugan para sa atin at sa ating mga pamilya pero paglabas ng ating mga bahay ang sumasalubong sa atin madalas ay makapal na usok. Maliban sa mga sugat, ang pangmatagalang epekto ng mga paputok ay ang iba’t ibang malubhang sakit na dulot ng maruming hangin,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian has filed in July 2019 Senate bill 724 or an act banning the sale, distribution and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices, which in effect repeals inconsistent provisions in RA 7183, an act regulating the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers.

Under the proposed measure, entities who want to have fireworks displays need to secure a special permit from the Philippine National Police Fireworks and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO). Upon presentation of the permit, the LGU will designate an area where the fireworks display will be held.

The bill also requires technically-equipped professionals to handle the fireworks.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also filed Senate Bill 493 or the Firecrackers Ban Act, seeking to institutionalize President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order no. 28.

The EO, which was issued in 2017, orders the limited use of firecrackers to community fireworks display as well as stricter regulation of all uncontrolled and unregulated firecrackers and similar devices.

Sotto’s bill seeks to prohibit the unsupervised use of firecrackers regardless of the occasion. It also wants to require those who want to use fireworks in designated areas to secure permits from local government units.

The bills on firecracker ban are still pending on committee level.

Close contacts ng Pinoy na may UK COVID-19 variant na ‘di nakikipagtulungan sa otoridad, mahaharap sa parusa – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Maaaring maharap sa parusa ang sinomang close contact ng Pilipinong nag-positibo sa UK variant ng COVID-19 na hindi makikipagtulungan sa mga otoridad, ayon sa Department of Health (DOH).

Inilabas ng DOH ang babala sa gitna ng ginagawa nitong contact tracing sa lahat ng nakasalamuha ng Pilipinong nagkaroon ng UK coronavirus variant matapos bumiyahe palabas ng bansa noong Disyembre.

Una nang iniulat ng DOH na ang Pilipinong naimpeksyon ng UK COVID-19 variant ay bumiyahe pa-United Arab Emirates noong Disyembre. Umuwi ito sa bansa nitong Enero 7 kasama ang kanyang kasintahan sakay ng eroplanong may lulang 159 iba pang mga pasahero.

Ayon kay Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, 92 porsiyento o 146 na ng close contacts ng pasyente ang nakausap ng DOH. Ang nalalabing 13 naman ay hindi pa umano tumutugon o kaya ay kinakansela ang kanilang tawag.

Paalala ni Vergeire na sa ilalim ng batas, maaaring maharap sa multa o parusang pagkakakulong ang sinomang close contacts ng pasyente na hindi makikipagtulungan sa mga otoridad.

“There is this violation, we have a law, RA 11332, law on notifiable diseases… Maaari po tayong magkaroon ng mga sanctions for these persons especially kung talagang kasama siya as contact siya, and the risk of him spreading the diseases ay nandoon,” ang wika ni Vergeire.

Ayon kay Vergeire, nasa quarantine facilities na ang ilan sa close contacts ng UK variant-positive na pasyante habang ang ilan naman ay pinayagang mag-home quarantine alinsunod sa panuntunan. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Gatchalian renews push for SIM card registration

Robie de Guzman   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday renewed his push for a bill mandating the registration of all users of pre-paid subscriber identity module (SIM) cards to enable authorities to easily clampdown those engaged in illegal activities.

In a statement, Gatchalian noted that a number of individuals in the recent months have fallen prey to online fraudsters who used prepaid SIM cards to carry out their illegal activities.

The senator has recently been a victim of credit card hacking after perpetrators managed to gain access to one-time password (OTP) using a prepaid mobile phone, and changed the mobile number linked to his account.

“When fraudsters gain access to OTPs, it’s as if they’re the actual owners of the account doing the transaction,” Gatchalian said.

“The boundless stream of supply of prepaid SIM cards has become a magnet of illicit activities since the start of the pandemic. There had been countless cases of online fraudsters who used unregistered mobile numbers,” he added.

Under Senate Bill 176 or the proposed SIM Card Registration Act, end users of prepaid SIM cards shall be required to present a valid ID and photo and sign a control-numbered registration form issued by the service provider of the purchased SIM card.

Copies of the accomplished forms shall be furnished to the same service provider and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

“Mahalagang may mukha o pangalan sa likod ng mga prepaid SIM cards lalo na ngayong panahon ng pandemya na kailangan ng contact-tracing. Anong kaibahan kung gagawin nang requirement ang pagre-register ng mga prepaid SIM cards sa requirement na kailangang mag-register sa mga lugar na pinupuntahan mo para sa contact-tracing?” he said.

Gatchalian first filed the bill in 2016 and re-filed it in July 2019.

PH detects COVID-19 UK variant

Maris Federez   •   January 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) officially confirmed the detection of the B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2 variant (UK variant) in the country.

This, after samples from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 7 yielded positive genome sequencing results, according to a DOH press release Wednesday (January 13) following strengthened biosurveillance and border control efforts of the two agencies.

The advisory said the patient is a male resident of Quezon City who departed for Dubai on December 27, 2020 for business purposes and arrived in the Philippines last January 7, 2021 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332.

After the positive was released, the patient was referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to PGC for whole genome sequencing.

He was also accompanied by his female partner during his trip, but she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 upon arrival. She, however, is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.

The DOH said the two had no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai nor had any travel activities outside Quezon City.

The health department immediately conducted contact tracing, in close coordination with the QC government. Contact tracers reported that the initially identified contacts are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine.

The DOH said that they are continually working closely with the QC LGU to ensure that timely and effective measures are in place to mitigate transmission.

The agency has also secured the flight manifest of Emirates Flight No. EK 332 and contact tracing of other passengers is now underway.

Health authorities advise those who were aboard the said flight to get in touch with their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs).

Meanwhile, the health department said that it will intensify the weekly genomic biosurveillance among incoming passengers, local cases, re-infected patients, and those with reported clustering of cases.

The DOH said it has also coordinated with the Department of Interior and Local Government for the expansion of contact tracing to include third-generation close contacts for known B.1.1.7 cases. All close contacts of confirmed B.1.1.7 cases shall also undergo strict 14-day facility-based quarantine, the advisory said.

The DOH is reiterating its call to national government agencies, local government units and the public for stricter observance of the minimum public health standards and stricter implementation of quarantine protocols to further mitigate the risk of acquiring the virus and slow down possible mutations.

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