No available COVID-19 test kits in Phl yet — FDA

Maris Federez   •   March 15, 2020   •   1003

MANILA, Philippines — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reiterated that there are no registered COVID-19 diagnostic test kits that are now available to the public yet.

In a statement issued on Sunday (March 15), the FDA said this is so “because no company has complied with the minimum set of requirements.”

The FDA added that they are only asking for a License to Operate (LTO) as a distributor and a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) from a reliable and mature national regulatory agency (NRA) such as FDA counterparts in the United States, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Europe, among others, from those who want to import test kits.

In the absence of such, a Certificate of Prequalification or Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization (WHO) is also admissible.

As of Sunday, the FDA said, no company has submitted these.

The agency also denied that there is a delay in the approval of the test kits, adding that as soon as proper documents are submitted to the FDA, the certification will be immediately released.

The FDA stressed that the submission of proper documents relative to the test kits will safeguard the public interest and ensure that the available test kits for use are safe and will give useful results.

“Many companies have been marketing test kits since the start of the COVID outbreak, however, the source and reliability of these devices are yet to be verified,” the statement reads.

Director-General Eric Domingo explained, “We cannot vouch for its safety and efficacy by merely accepting the stated claims of a testing kit without the proper regulatory certification from the country of origin and a reliable NRA. These kits may give false positive and false negative results which may affect the response to this pandemic. They may also be counterfeit products that will not test for the novel coronavirus at all.”

The FDA added that the only COVID-19 diagnostic test kits used now are PCR based lab kits at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) which were donated by the WHO, and the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP NIH) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) developed test kit which is scheduled to start field testing on Monday, 16 March 2020.

The FDA ensures that it is committed to staying true to its mandate of safeguarding public health.

“During these difficult times, we strongly request everybody to cooperate and to be vigilant. This is not the time to take advantage of the scarcity of resources by allowing unregulated items into the system. Let us continue to look after each other’s safety.” DG Domingo concluded. — /mbmf

DILG tells LGUs to digitize transactions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday urged local government units (LGUs) to move towards digitized transactions to reduce contact and impede further transmission of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the country continues to fight the pandemic.

In a statement, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año called on LGUs to fast-track the issuance of permits and clearances in setting up crucial infrastructure needed for digital connectivity across the country including the construction of cell sites to improve internet connectivity.

“The millions working from home, the students looking forward to on-line learning, and the workers who depend on the digital economy are all expecting government to address the gaps in our internet infrastructure,” Año said.

“We therefore encourage all LGUs to beef up their digital platforms in their communities as we move towards the new normal,” he added.

He also said that going digital is the “call of the time,” but more than technological advancement, digitized government and consumer transactions are precautionary measures that can contribute immensely to impeding virus transmission.

In the same statement, DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that digital platforms can be an important partner of LGUs in ensuring the health and safety of the public while promoting economic growth. 

“You have to strike a balance. We must begin the economic recovery even as we fight COVID,” he said.

Malaya also noted that LGUs have a key role in bolstering the digital platform, not just in government services but also in building business and consumer confidence during these trying times.

He likewise said that LGUs must encourage businesses to veer towards online money transfer instead of physical payment as part of the new normal.

“Many businesses have now been engaging the financial services provided by major payment gateways such as Smart Padala, Gcash, PayMaya, Google, and Click2Pay that have drastically changed our experience in making online payments – from the conventional “pasaload” to a more sophisticated process of online payment,” he said.

Malaya also said that cashless payments have also helped in the fast distribution of the second batch of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) subsidy.

The government likewise advocates the use of online payment for taxes and mandatory social contributions, such as GSIS, BIR, SSS, PagIBIG, and PhilHealth, he added.

“Despite some security issues that the government assures can be countered, online payment is also seen to reduce red tape and cost of doing business as all government agencies, through the Ease of Doing Business Act, are mandated to automate their processes including payment of taxes, fees, and charges,” he said.

QC Mayor Belmonte confirms she has COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Wednesday said she has contracted the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement posted on Quezon City government’s facebook page, Belmonte confirmed she tested positive for COVID-19, and she is strictly observing quarantine protocols although she is not exhibiting any symptoms.

“Nais ko pong ipahayag sa lahat ng aking minamahal na QCitizens na ako po ay nag-positibo sa aking huling COVID-19 test. Nagpapasalamat po ako na agad itong natuklasan,” she said.

“Sa ngayon, maayos po ang aking kalagayan at wala po akong nararamdamang anumang sintomas. Mahigpit ko pong sinusundan lahat ng quarantine protocols ng ating Department of Health at sinimulan na din po ng QC Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (QC-ESU) ang contact tracing procedures,” she added.

Belmonte said she still contracted the viral respiratory disease despite being careful and compliant with health protocols.

She added that the development did not surprise her as she has been visiting hospitals, health centers and areas in the city that were placed under special concern lockdown.

“Nangyari po ito sa kabila ng aking ibayong pag-iingat, pagsusuot ng facemask, madalas na paghugas ng kamay, at social distancing,” she said.

“Kaya sana ay magsilbi itong paalala na ang COVID-19 ay tunay na isang kakaibang sakit na dapat pag-ingatan pa nang lubusan,” she added. “Sa simula pa lang, batid na naming posibleng mangyari ito. Pero hindi ko po ito pinagsisisihan. Inihanda ko na po ang aking sarili at buong puso ko po itong tinatanggap.”

Belmonte said her office has been closed for disinfection, which will also cover the common areas of the city hall.

The mayor assured that city hall operations will continue and that she will still monitor the situation despite being under quarantine.

“Bagama’t limitado ang aking pagkilos, mananatili po akong nakatutok sa kalagayan at pangangailangan ng buong Quezon City,” she said.

She said the city’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit has started contact tracing procedures.

WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

UNTV News   •   July 8, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday (July 7) acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease passes between people.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, told a news briefing.

The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.

But in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published on Monday (July 6) in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

Because those smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, the scientists are urging WHO to update its guidance.

Speaking at Tuesday’s briefing in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive.

Any change in the WHO’s assessment of risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 1-metre (3.3 feet) of physical distancing. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Van Kerkhove said the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarising the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.

“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said.

“This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for healthcare workers.” (Reuters)

(Production: Louisa Naks)

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