Inter-Agency Task Force to review travel ban expansion amid COVID-19 threat

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 2, 2020   •   1072

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) will review if there is a need to expand the travel ban restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), the lead agency of the IATF-EID, the government is always conducting regular risk assessments.

DOH Asec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are looking into several criteria in order to determine if the government should implement a travel ban to a certain country.

Among the criteria include the number of COVID-19 cases in a certain country, the number of passengers flying to and from the Philippines, as well as the evidence of local transmission in the area.

“There are these criteria that are being used for us to ascertain if countries should be restricted or not,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration is not encouraging Filipinos to travel outside the county especially if it’s not needed.

“If your travel is non-essential, it’s best to delay it, while everything is being sorted out,” according to Immigration Bureau Spokesperson Dana Sandoval.

“Rest assured that the government is implementing this travel bans to protect us,” she added.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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)

Duterte wants more options to weigh on fate of Luzon quarantine – IATF

Robie de Guzman   •   April 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to make a decision on the fate of the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon which will end of April 30, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) said on Tuesday.

IATF spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the president wants the task force to have more discussions and offer more options for him to assess in deciding on the looming deadline of the Luzon-wide quarantine against the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Kahapon po, nung sa pagkakaalam ko, nung nag-present po yung members ng IATF to the President, hindi pa po nakapag-decide si Pangulong Duterte kung ano yung gagawin after April 30,” Nograles said in a virtual press briefing.

“Sinabi ng pangulo, ‘Okay, ibalik niyo muna sa IATF, usap kayo ulit and then come back to me again kung ano yung napagdesisyunan o napag-agreehan ninyo at yung mga output niyo’,” he added.

Nograles said the task force will continue its discussions and review of recommendations this week.

He said among the options they are looking to recommend to the chief executive is the imposition of a modified quarantine and its factors such as the identification of areas with a high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the conduct of expanded mass testing.

They are also looking into identifying industries that may be allowed to reopen after the ECQ, as well as public transportations that may operate again, provided that physical distancing guidelines are maintained.

Nograles assured that the task force will take into consideration the protocols set by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the input from the private sector in their recommendations.

The Palace official also reiterated that earlier claims on Duterte’s possible pronouncement of “total lockdown” next week are totally untrue.

Nograles maintained that the imposition of a “total lockdown” is not among the options there are discussing.

“Wala kasi sa vocabulary namin ‘yung total lockdown. Ang discipline naman namin sa IATF is, ‘quarantine’. Community quaratine, modified o enhanced, general community quarantine. So, we never use ‘yung ‘lockdown’,” he stressed. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

LGUs urged to set community schedules, instead of window hours, for market trips amid quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Local government units (LGU) have been asked to remove policies on window hours for market and grocery trips and other essential stores amid the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) already directed LGUs through an April 18 advisory to discontinue the implementation of limited window hours on the access of supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies as it creates congestion of people who flock to these establishments at the same time.

Instead, LGUs should impose scheduling and/or clustering of the communities or barangays that may be allowed to go out to prevent overcrowding and enforce physical distancing measures, the IATF said.

“Para hindi sabay-sabay lumabas ang ating mga kababayan, mas mahabang oras ng bawat taong lumabas, rotational po ang areas na pwedeng lumabas para mas konti ang tao na nasa labas at a given time,” IATF spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año previously discouraged LGUs from imposing window hours as it goes against the government’s call to follow physical distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

In its April 18 advisory, the DILG also urged local chief executives to employ more innovative ways to ensure that the measures being adopted to limit public movement do not counter the purpose of the ECQ.

Among the DILG’s suggestions to bring the basic goods closer to the public are online marketing and delivery of products, setting up community markets in subdivisions, and mobile markets where vehicles filled with market goods can go around communities.

Luzon is under community quarantine from March 17 until April 30 to contain the spread of COVID-19. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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