PH gov’t task force rolls out national action plan vs COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2020   •   1197

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Wednesday presented the government’s National Action Plan (NAP) which is aimed at arresting the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who serves as the task force’s spokesperson, revealed the action plan against COVID-19 pandemic at a news conference in Malacañang.

Under the plan which is contained in the March 24 resolution, the IATF will serve as the policy-making body of the operations while the national task force (NTF-COVID-19) shall serve as the operational command to be headed by the Secretary of the Department of National Defense.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council shall determine and identify the agencies that will belong to the proposed NTF-COVID-19.

The task group on response operations will be led by the Department of Health with support from other national government agencies to address enforcement and security, food security, disaster risk management, and labor issues.

The IATF also said that a task group on resource management and logistics shall ensure that critical needs of all concerned agencies will be met, while another task group will be in-charge pf communications.

The day-to-day concerns in relation to the pandemic will be managed by National Incident Command.

The IATF also directed the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to transfer more than P420 million fund to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to be used for the latter’s COVID-19 packages.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will lead the Technical Working Group for Social Amelioration to identify beneficiaries of the government’s social amelioration program.

The IATF also said endorsed the proposal of the Department of Labor and Employment to immediately release the P1.5 billion worth of financial aid for Filipino migrant workers.

The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), meanwhile, is designated as the main coordinating body for all domestic donations relative to the management of COVID-19, while international financial donations will be subject to the evaluation of a technical working group composed of the Department of Foreign Affairs, OCD, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management.

The action plan was released a week after the Philippines was placed under a state of calamity, and a 30day enhanced community quarantine was implemented in the whole of Luzon to combat the spread of the virus.

The Philippines has so far recorded 636 confirmed cases with 38 deaths and 26 recoveries.

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)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro confirms postive coronavirus diagnosis

UNTV News   •   July 8, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday (July 7) he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, adding in a television interview that he was in good health despite running a fever.

The right-wing populist, who has played down the severity of the virus which he has called a “little flu,” took the test on Monday after developing symptoms.

In the interview broadcast on state-run TV Brasil, Bolsonaro said he began feeling ill on Sunday (July 5) and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19.

“It started on Sunday (July 5) with a certain feeling of unwell that worsened during the day on Monday (July 6), with malaise, tiredness, a bit of muscle pain and a fever that reached 38 degrees in the late afternoon. I then thought that with these symptoms, and with the presidency’s medic (believing it to be) a possible COVID-19 infection, I did a CT scan at the armed forces hospital here in Brasilia. And the lungs were clear,” Bolsonaro said.

Brazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak behind the United States. Latin America’s largest country has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June. Bolsonaro has also railed against social distancing rules supported by the World Health Organization.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended several events and was in close contact with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman during July 4 celebrations. Pictures showed neither wearing a mask.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter on Monday (July 6) that the ambassador had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and the president’s son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro. The ambassador had no symptoms, but would undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said. (REUTERS)

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