PH immigration frontline workers to get tested for COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   April 27, 2020   •   459

lliMANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced it will soon be conducting novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing for its employees as part of its measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said they will use the 500 sets of COVID-19 rapid anti-body test kits donated by China.

“We are grateful to everyone for supporting our efforts to protect our employees from this virus,” Morente said in a statement Sunday.

The Immigration chief stressed that BI personnel need to undergo the tests as they continue to man immigration counters and assist in special flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

BI Port Operations Chief Grifton Medina reported that more than 400 immigration officers are currently assigned to man the immigration counters at the airport.

“Aside from performing counter duties, these officers are also frequently dispatched to process hundreds of passengers aboard repatriation and sweeper flights that have been flying in and out of the NAIA,” Medina said.

The bureau said that, as part of existing protocols and to lessen the risks of infection, immigration officers attending special flights process repatriated passengers in a separate airport terminal. Many of the repatriates came from countries with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

Medina said more repatriation flights are anticipated to arrive at the NAIA in the next several days amid the continued implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

In the past three weeks, more than 40 repatriation flights already arrived at the NAIA, carrying overseas Filipino Workers who came from different parts of the globe.

Immigration officers are also processing cargo vessels and crewmen arriving in the country’s seaports.

“We hope that through COVID-19 testing, we may help lessen this risk and curb the further spread of the virus,” Morente said.

The Immigration chief also bared they have procured much-needed personal protective equipment for their frontline workers.

“We have already procured medical supplies including PPEs that are projected to last until December 2020 from the Department of Budget and Management,” he said.

“These PPEs include face shield, gown, gloves, goggles, and other sanitizing and protective equipment needed by our men in their daily duties as frontliners, especially those attending special flights and processing arriving ships, being the most at risk of getting infected,” he added.

He also thanked those who donate PPEs to protect immigration officers from contracting the viral respiratory disease.

IATF places Cagayan, Apayao, Benguet back to MECQ due to high COVID-19 cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Northern provinces Cagayan, Apayao, and Benguet have reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) after recording high cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The MECQ status will take effect on May 11 until May 23.

As of May 10, Cagayan has 4,657 cases followed by Benguet with 531 and Apayao with 63.

Business operations in the said areas will be limited according to the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

A liquor ban will be implemented while religious gatherings will only be allowed at 10% capacity.  Entertainment and recreational events also be suspended.

Benguet governor Melchor Diclas reported that majority of the COVID-19 cases in their area are severe. Hospitals in Benguet are also in short supply of respirators.

“Dumadami talaga ang mga pasyente natin. Marami ang namamatay at marami ang nagkakasakit ng critical at serious. Ang respirator natin may nagagamit tayong 13 na respirator. Ang bakante nalang ay dalawa,” he said.

(Our patients are increasing. Many have died and many are in critical or serious condition. We have 13 respirators but there are only two available units left.)

Hospitals in Apayao, meanwhile, are at 80% critical level.  In Cagayan Province, Governor Manuel Mamba said Tuguegarao City’s home quarantine setup is still contributing to the rising cases of COVID-19.

“Hindi magiging epektibo ang MECQ sa Tuguegarao City hangga’t may home quarantine,” he said.

(MECQ in Tuguegarao City will not be effective as long as home quarantine is being implemented .)

Mamba continues to reiterate the need to build isolation facilities in Tuguegarao to accommodate COVID-19 patients. AAC (With reports from Marvin Calas)

 

 

Evaluation of EUA application for Sinopharm vax may be completed in less than 21 days – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The evaluation process for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will not take long before it can be granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the Sinopharm vaccine has already been included in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and access to its documents, including inspection reports from the WHO will be faster.

“Useful yung kanyang Emergency Use Listing sa WHO kasi before this, wala pa siyang EUA from a stringent regulatory authority katulad ng mga USFDA ganyan or Europe, Japan… hindi pa siya listed sa mga iyon. Pero yung WHO na emergency use listing that’s equivalent to a stringent regulatory authority,” he said.

“Ang maganda sa WHO kasi very transparent ang documents nyan. Available din siya sa FDA. Lahat ng ni-review nila, maaari naming ma-access kaya hindi tayo masyado mahihirapan sa paghingi ng information,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has started the process of applying for EUA, pending documents about the vaccine product.

The FDA said the process may take less than 21 days once the DOH completes the application process.

“Kapag ganyan na merong WHO EUL, mas mapapabilis iyan. Nakakaya natin iyan usually less than 21 days,” Domingo said.

The FDA also echoed the DOH’s earlier statement that there are no irregularities with the government’s move to file an EUA for a Chinese-made vaccine since they also applied for the EUA of other COVID-19 vaccine brands, such as Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, in order for these vaccines to be delivered to the country.

“Talagang nasa batas and it’s a worldwide practice,” he said. “Based on WHO guidelines, posible naman na gobyerno gusto bumili ng bakuna na walang local manufacturer or representative dito. In those cases, the government itself can get EUA.”

“Hindi naman conflict yun dahil ang EUA ay hindi naman product registration o marketing authorization lang, talagang for emergency use lang ang mga bakuna,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Palace welcomes WHO’s emergency use listing for Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL).

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this development will strengthen the country’s vaccine portfolio.

“We welcome the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization for Sinopharm. This development would strengthen our diversified vaccine portfolio as we continue to work on improving access to safe and effective vaccines, including Sinopharm,” Roque said.

A WHO emergency listing means that a product’s safety and efficacy has been rigorously evaluated. It will also allow the product to be included in the COVAX facility for faster global roll out.

The COVAX facility led by the WHO is a global program that seeks to provide vaccine supply mainly for poor countries.

The emergency use listing will also allow countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The Philippines has so far received more than 7.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

“With the arrival of the bulk of our vaccine orders in the coming months, we are confident that we would be able to speed up our coronavirus vaccination program,” Roque said.

The Department of Health earlier said the emergency use authorization (EUA) application for Sinopharm vaccine is now being processed.

The Food and Drug Administration said the application’s evaluation will not take long as the product is already under the WHO emergency use listing.

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