PH gov’t to roll out COVID-19 vaccination program starting February 15 – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   February 8, 2021   •   802

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is eyeing to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program starting February 15, Malacañang announced.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said among the first to receive the vaccines are healthcare workers from hospitals that serve as main COVID-19 referral facilities including the Philippine General Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, and the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Metro Manila.

The incoming initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech totaling 117,000 doses will be used for the inoculation of healthcare workers included in the initial master list from hospitals, he added.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine supply under the COVAX facility is expected to arrive in the second or third week of February.

The government aims to complete the administration of vaccines to healthcare workers in less than a month.

“So, inaasahan po natin na sa buong linggong ito, sa buong buwan na darating ay at least lahat iyong medical frontliners at saka iyong immediate na may priority ay at least nasimulan na. Pero definitely, hindi po aabot ng isang buwan para matapos natin ang lahat ng mga medical frontliners,” Roque said.

The government is aiming to vaccinate up to 70 million people against COVID-19 this year, with priority given to healthcare workers, senior citizens, the indigent population, and uniformed personnel. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Unvaxxed, partially vaxxed NCR workers allowed to use public transport for 30 days

Robie de Guzman   •   January 26, 2022

Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated employees in industries and establishments allowed to operate in the National Capital Region (NCR) will be allowed to ride public transport for 30 days, starting January 26.

In a joint statement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the decision was reached during their meeting last Friday, January 21, after considering the vaccination coverage in the capital region.

“Within the 30-day window, partially vaccinated workers are still allowed to board public transportation,” the statement read.

“However, since partially unvaccinated individuals are still at risk given that they do not have complete protection against the virus as clarified by the Health Department, they are also not allowed to use public transportation if vaccination remains incomplete within the 30-day window,” it added.

The DOTr is implementing a “no vaccination, no ride” policy in public transportation vehicles while the NCR is under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and up. The NCR and other areas with high infection rates have been placed under Alert Level 3 until January 31.

DOTr Undersecretary for Administrative Service and official representative to the IATF Artemio Tuazon Jr. said that 30 days following the announcement of the new protocol, only workers in the NCR who are fully vaccinated are allowed to use public transportation.

Fully vaccinated refers to those who have completed the 2-dose primary series vaccination such as for the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, or Moderna brands; or the one-dose vaccination such as for the Janssen brand.

Tuazon added that the joint decision made by the DOLE, DILG, and the DOTr supports the government’s ongoing thrust to ramp up vaccination efforts, especially amid the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

“This joint decision is also meant to support the vaccination drive of the entire government,” he said.

“We want our workers to get fully vaccinated especially now that there is no longer a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, and there is a threat of highly transmissible variants of the virus. We are giving our workers the time to get themselves vaccinated,” he added.

The DOTr official also maintained that the “no vaccination, no ride” policy is not discriminatory.

“As jointly decided by the DOLE, DILG, and DOTr, workers who will remain unvaccinated 30 days after the announcement are not being barred from their workplaces. They are simply not allowed to use public transportation, but can still use other means such as active transport, private vehicles, or company shuttle services,” said Tuazon.

Omicron now dominant COVID-19 variant in PH, Duque says

Robie de Guzman   •   January 11, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The highly transmissible Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus variant in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Based on the latest whole genome sequencing conducted on January 3, Duque said that 6.42 percent or 29 out of the 48 samples tested were found with the Omicron variant while 37.5 percent or 18 were Delta variant.

“So siya na po ‘yung nagdo-dominate na variant whereas before it was the Delta. So 60 percent of all the sequence runs ay Omicron na po,” Duque said in his report during a pre-taped public briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired late Monday.

The Department of Health (DOH) last week reported it has detected a total of 43 cases of Omicron variant in the country.

The Philippines on Monday reported 33,169 new COVID-19 infections, a new record daily spike. The latest data has pushed the country’s total caseload to nearly 3 million since the outbreak in 2020.

Duque also reported that the average daily reported cases jumped by 690 percent from January 4 to 10 with an average daily increase of 20,481 cases compared to the 7-day moving average from December 28 to January 3 at 2,593.

“So napakalaki po nang itinaas nito,” he said.

He added that most of the newly reported cases were from the National Capital Region, followed by the Region 4A and Region 3.

This means that three regions were in critical risk classification, while other regions were in high risk. This also meant that the whole Philippines is at critical risk classification for COVID-19.

“Ang Pilipinas nasa 3,663 percent, positive po ‘yan na talagang ang tulin, ang bilis ng kalat ng mga kaso. At ang kanyang average daily attack rate nasa 10.47 per 100,000 (population). Lampas po ito doon sa one to seven which was moderate about four weeks ago. Ngayon, lumampas na po tayo kaya critical na po tayo,” he said.

“Kaya napakamahalaga po na bantayan itong mga lugar na ito at paigtingin ang atin pong tugon gamit ang ating mask, hugas, iwas, ventilation, and vaccination strategy,” he added.

Duque also noted an increase in the utilization rates of hospital, intensive care unit (ICU) and mechanical ventilation nationwide.

He said that as of Monday, January 10, forty percent (40%) of hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 cases, while 38 percent for ICU, and 17 percent for mechanical ventilation.

“Karamihan ng mga rehiyon ay nagkaroon ng kani-kanilang pagtaas ng tatlong panukatan at ‘yun na nga… Kaya naman aming pinaaalalahanan ang mga ospital na bigyang prayoridad ang pagtanggap o pag-admit ng atin pong mga moderate, severe, at critical cases at makipag-ugnayan sa atin pong One Hospital Command Center upang mai-refer ang mga mild at asymptomatic na pasyente sa mga Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs),” he said.

“At kung papasa sa requirements ay maaaring sa kani-kanilang mga bahay na po mag-isolate ang mga ito. So napakamalaking bagay po na sundin po ito para madecongest ang ating mga facilities,” he added.

The health chief also noted that compared to previous COVID-19 case surges, there were less severe and critical cases.

“Habang nakikita natin na patuloy na tumataas ang ating mga kaso nationwide, ating nakikita rin po na mas mababa ang ating naitatalang severe at critical cases kung ikukumpara noong ating kasagsagan noong nakaraang September 2022 na kung saan ‘yung Delta variant ang rumaragasa,” he said.

Of the 8,569 total hospital admissions as of January 9, Duque said that 636 or 7 percent were severe, while 271 or 3 percent were critical cases.

“Ang sinasalamin po nito ay ang pagiging epektibo ng atin pong pagbabakuna at pagsunod sa minimum public health standards: ang mask, hugas, iwas,” he said.

Duque said the Philippines has experienced four cases surges already excluding the current one.

“We actually already have four surges ano po. Ito ‘yung March-April; JulyAugust; then we have the April — March-April; and then we have the latest which was August-September,” he said.

He called on local government units to further intensify the implementation of public health protocols and contact tracing, as well as impose granular lockdowns in communities with reported cases clusterings.

Duque also reminded the public to remain vigilant by properly wearing face masks, avoid gathering and activities in crowded places, and get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.

He also stressed the importance of immediately going into isolation when a person experiences the onset of cough, fever, colds and other flu-like symptoms to prevent transmission.

“Kung ikaw ay nakararanas ng sintomas, agad po tayong mag-self-isolate, bigyang alerto ang lahat po ng inyong barangay health emergency response teams sa inyo pong komunidad, at magpasuri o magpa-test sa tamang panahon,” he said.

“Muli, nananawagan kami sa lahat na tayo ay magtulung-tulungan at gawin natin ang ating bahagi upang mapigilan ang patuloy na pagtaas ng mga kaso at muling maibaba ito,” he added.

Bar examinees urged to self-quarantine starting January 10

Robie de Guzman   •   January 10, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has urged examinees to observe quarantine protocols ahead of the conduct of the 2020/21 Bar exams.

In Bar Bulletin no. 31 posted by the Supreme Court, Leonen said Bar examinees should undergo self-quarantine starting Monday, January 10.

Leonen sits as chairperson of Bar Examinations.

“As stated in Bar Bulletin Nos. 30 and 31, Bar examinees who will test positive for COVID-19 both under an antigen or RT-PCR test will automatically be denied entry to their local testing centers,” he said.

“This prohibition will apply to all positive cases, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” he added.

The Bar exams will be held for four Sundays starting January 16.

Fully vaccinated examinees are required to undergo only one antigen test within 48 hours before the first examination.

“Those who will test positive under the antigen test shall be required to comply with the guidelines of their local testing center’s local government unit,” Leonen said.

Unvaccinated examinees, on the other hand, will be required to present negative nasal or saliva RT-PCR Test results taken within 72 hours before the first examination. Information about testing will be received through email by each examinees.

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 shall still be required to undergo an antigen test or RT-PCR test before the first examination.

Examinees who present a positive test result but have since recovered from COVID-19 up to a month before the first Bar examination day shall be required to present an affidavit stating under oath that they are considered by the local government units as a “recovered” case and they have completed the required isolation period.

“As they take the examinations, Bar exam personnel will verify with the concerned local government unit as to their status as ‘recovered,’” Leonen said.

“Any false statement shall be cause for outright disqualification,” he added.

As an added layer of protection especially against the Omicron coronavirus variant, Leonen said all unvaccinated examinees are also highly encouraged to get vaccinated before the exams.

“This is for you as well as for your loves ones and the community,” he said.

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