Senate under restricted access, senators on self-quarantine after guest tests positive for COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   March 12, 2020   •   660

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines has been placed on restricted access to allow disinfection on Thursday (March 12) after one resource person in a recent Senate hearing tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

On Wednesday evening (March 11), Senate President Vicente Sotto III set the restriction to begin Thursday until the weekend to allow disinfection of the Senate halls.

“We are playing it safe. Better to err on the side of caution. But let’s not be paranoid. Quarantine period is being observed already by those concerned,” Sotto said in a statement.

“I’m optimistic that there is no real danger in the Senate,” he added.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who led the committee hearing on March 5, voluntarily went on self-quarantine after interacting with the resource person.

“Though I am asymptomatic and feel healthy, I will follow government set protocols on such cases and go into self-quarantine immediately given that I interacted with the said individual,” Gatchalian said.

“I instructed all my staff to do the same especially those who had direct contact with the said person too,” he added.

Also in a statement, Senator Nancy Binay said: “Following the decision of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian to go into self-quarantine, I have likewise decided to take similar precautions and self-monitor for the next 14 days.”

“This is a serious public health matter and I enjoin everyone who came in contact with me in the past week to take the same precautions and observe all the basic hygienic processes,” Binay said.

Binay said she also asked her staff to do the same and take preventive measures.

“With close to 50 people already tested positive, it only shows that the exposure to the virus is real, and there’s a high chance that someone out there is a carrier,” she said.

Apart from Gatchalian and Binay, Finance Chief Carlos Dominguez III and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade as well as Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran all went into self-quarantine.

Dominguez and Tugade both submitted themselves to COVID-19 tests despite being asymptomatic as they also interacted with another COVID-19 carrier last week.

“I was told that a fellow I met with last Thursday and Friday last week has tested positive for COVID-19 today. I have no symptoms but I am self-isolating until I get tested. You may wish to follow suit,” Dominguez said.

Senator Sotto said they will also review the closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) in Senate to determine who were the other people the Covid-19 carrier interacted with. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

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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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