No B.1.1.7 variant detected among 48 samples sequenced — DOH, PGC

Maris Federez   •   January 31, 2021   •   446

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) reports that the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) was only able to sequence 48 samples for the fourth batch of sequencing.

This, the department said, was due to the global shortage of sequencing reagents for high throughput whole genome sequencing.

The DOH, on the other hand, emphasized that none of the 48 samples was positive for the B.1.1.7 or the UK variant.

In an advisory released on Saturday (January 30), the department reported that of the 48 samples, 23 cases came from the National Capital Region which were mostly from Quezon City; 19 from CALABARZON with most cases from Laguna; four from the Cordillera Region; and two were returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

The DOH added that seven of these cases are already tagged as recovered. Meanwhile, the active cases in the batch are either asymptomatic or mild cases.

The UP-PGC, in a report, said that they were only able to sequence samples from two ROFs as these two are the only samples that met the minimum amount and cycle threshold value required for sequencing.

“Moreover, the PGC is also set to sequence another 48 samples this coming week, including samples from CAR and other targeted areas, while waiting for the kits and reagents for genomic sequencing,” the report said.

The DOH reiterates that while no new cases have been detected, minimum public health standards remain the best precautionary measure against COVID-19 infection regardless of the variant.

“Thus, the public is urged to strictly adhere to these standards, especially when going to public places, by properly wearing face masks and face shields, maintaining a one-meter distance from other people, limiting the time of interaction to others, ensuring proper air circulation in any establishments or venues, and to regularly sanitize hands,” the advisory concluded. —/mbmf

Angel Locsin apologizes after senior citizen died while waiting in community pantry

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Actress Angel Locsin on Friday (April 23) apologized after a senior citizen died while waiting in line at the community pantry in Quezon City.

The actress admitted they were not able to control the huge crowd that waited in line.

She said the community pantry was supposed to open at 10:00 a.m. but they had to open a bit early as the volume of people who want to benefit from the community pantry began to rise.

There were also individuals who did not have a stub and, yet, cut in line.

Hindi lang po talaga nila ma-control ang mga tao. Hindi po ito ang gusto ko, nagsimula po kami ng maayos ang aming layunin pati ang pagpaplano ng social distancing nagkataon lang po talaga siguro na gutom lang po talaga na kahit wala pa sa pila sumingit na. Sa mga nagambala ko po dito pasensya na po hindi po ito ang intensyon ko (We were not able to control the crowd. This is not what I wanted, we started off good and we planned it out including the social distancing. It just so happends that there were a lot of people in need that they had to cut in line. To those I inconvenienced, I apologize. It was not my intention),” she said.

The senior citizen, 67-year-old Rolando Dela Cruz, fainted while he was in line in the community pantry. He was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Barangay Holy Spirit Captain Chito Valmocina expressed concern over the lack of coordination between the local authorities and Locsin’s personnel.

Ang request nga nila dalawang tanod lang. Alas-dose na hindi pa natatapos ang 300 tsaka pa nila sinabi na talagang hanggang 300 lang (They only requested two barangay tanods. It was already 12:00 noon, they still were not done serving 300 [beneficiaries] when they said they will only accommodate 300 people),” Valmocina said.

Meanwhile, the Quezon City local government said they are ready to provide financial aid to the relatives of Dela Cruz.

The local government added that it still supports community pantries; however, the health and safety protocols should still be followed and organizers should fully coordinate with the local government to avoid a similar incident. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

PH records 8,719 new COVID-19 infections

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ tally of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases has climbed to 979,740 on Friday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 8,718 additional infections.

In its 4 p.m. bulletin, the DOH said the latest tally pushed the country’s total active cases to 102,799.

The agency noted that one laboratory failed to submit data on time.

Total recoveries climbed to 860,412 after 13,812 more patients recuperated from the viral respiratory disease.

The death toll rose to 16,529 with 159 new fatalities.

DOLE to hire 1,000 additional contact tracers for Metro Manila

Marje Pelayo   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will hire up to 6,000 contact tracers to help in the government’s response against COVID-19.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that from the initial 4,000 recruits, the government is now planning to hire 1,000 additional  contact tracers for Metro Manila.

Bello said DOLE  has allotted an additional P65 million for the mass hiring, bringing the program’s total budget to P295 million.

The official explained that such augmentation is necessary as the demand for contact tracers especially in Metro Manila has been high.

“Kailangang-kailangan talaga ng ating mga contact tracer lalong lalo na dito sa NCR at saka sa apat na bubble,” Bello said.

As of Thursday (April 22), the number of applicants for the position has reached more than 10,000.

Bello said training for the contact tracers will begin on Monday (April 26). Accepted applicants will start their duty on May 1.

Each contact tracer will receive a monthly salary of P16,000 or up to P45,000 for three months. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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