WHO forms new group to probe origins of coronavirus, emerging pathogens

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2021   •   669

 

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced its newly formed group of experts that will study the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential, including SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 In a statement, the WHO said the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) will advise the body on the development of a global framework to define and guide studies into the origins of coronavirus and other pathogens.

“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.

“Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise. We are very pleased with the calibre of experts selected for SAGO from around the world, and look forward to working with them to make the world safer,” he added.

Aside from advising the WHO on the development of a framework in defining and guiding studies on pathogens, the SAGO will also have the following functions:

  • To advise WHO on prioritizing studies and field investigations into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential, in accordance with the WHO global framework described above;
  • To provide information and views to assist the WHO Secretariat in the development of a detailed work plan of the SAGO;
  • In the context of SARS-CoV-2 origins: To provide the WHO Secretariat with an independent evaluation of all available scientific and technical findings from global studies on the origins of SARS-CoV-2;
  • To advise the WHO Secretariat regarding developing, monitoring and supporting the next series of studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, including rapid advice on WHO’s operational plans to implement the next series of global studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, as outlined in the Joint WHO-China Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part report published on 30 March 2021 and advise on additional studies as needed; and
  • To provide additional advice and support to WHO, as requested by the WHO SAGO Secretariat, which may include participation in future WHO-international missions to study the origins of SARS-CoV-2 or for other emerging pathogens.

The WHO chief said they have named the 26 proposed members of SAGO who have expertise in a range of areas, including epidemiology, animal health, ecology, clinical medicine, virology, genomics, molecular epidemiology, molecular biology, biology, food safety, biosafety, biosecurity, and public health.

As per WHO processes, he said there will now be a two-week public consultation period for WHO to receive feedback on the proposed SAGO members and set in place the modalities for the SAGO’s first meeting, which is planned to take place following this consultation period.

The final membership to the SAGO is subject to the above-mentioned public consultation period and relevant WHO practices and procedures, he added.

NCR hospitals report decreasing number of COVID-19 patients

Maris Federez   •   December 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Several hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) have reported a significant decrease in the number of patients admitted due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAPi).

PHAPi president Dr. Jose Rene de Grano said a number of private hospitals nationwide, particularly in Metro Manila, have reported not having COVID-19 patient confinements.

Hospitals that still have COVID-19 patients are of non-severe cases.

“Karamihan sa kanila halos kung hindi man zero, it’s less than 5 or 2 na nga lang yung iba eh. Meron din talagang zero or wala na. And yung cases nga, hindi na kagrabe katulad nung iba dati,” De Grano.

De Grano added that half of the more than 600 PHAPi member hospitals have recorded low COVID-19 admissions.

This, De Grano said, allows hospitals to focus their attention on non-COVID-19 patients.

“Yung mga private hospitals ngayon, nakaka-concentrate kami on non-COVID cases. But still, we are prepared just in case magkaroon tayo ng maraming COVID cases ulit,” he said.

“Mas nakakarelax ang ating healthcare workers, doctors and nurses. Actually, ang pino-focus nila ngayon is ang vaccination,” he added.

However, he warned hospitals not to be too complacent as there are still hospitals outside of the nation’s capital that still have COVID-19 cases.

He, nevertheless, assured that private hospitals are ready and prepared to accept COVID-19 patients, if and when warranted.

Meanwhile, government hospitals have also reported a decreasing number of COVID-19 patients admitted.

The National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) has reported that the number of COVID-19 cases confined in the hospital has reduced to only 18, with only one patient in the intensive care unit (ICU).

NKTI executive director Dr. Rose Marie Rosete-Liquete added that the hospital now has only one health worker under quarantine.

“Ang admission namin is zero to one a day. The past weekend, zero zero eh. Yesterday, one-one. Malaking bagay na nakababa kumpara before na nag-100 plus cases kami,” Liquete said.

“Malaking bagay na ito, nakakahinga na sila. Nakakahinga na kami,” she added.

Liquete said several rooms that have been transformed into COVID-19 rooms are not back to being non-COVID rooms.

The Philippine General Hospital, as of December 5 announced that the hospital now only has 59 COVID-19 patients confined.

Despite this development, PHAPi appealed to the government to keep the country under alert level 2 until the end of the year.

The group also reminded the public to still observe minimum health protocols at all times.

“We should still be careful dahil nandiyan pa rin ang COVID. Sakaling magkaroon tayo ng pagtitipon, kung maaari siguro sa close relatives na lang o sa family na lang. At iwasan na po natin yung maraming masyadong pagtitipon ng sa gayon ay ma-enjoy natin ang ating vacation,” De Grano said.

Liquete, on the other hand, advised the public to stay away from big groups. She also called on those who are not yet vaccinated to receive their jab.

“Iwasan ang big groups, at saka for those who are not vaccinated, magpabakuna na po,” Liquete said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Philippines adds France to Red List

Robie de Guzman   •   December 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on Wednesday placed France on the Philippines’ Red list or countries that are high risk for COVID-19, Malacañang said.

In a statement, acting Presidential Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the escalation of France to the Red list is effective 12:01 a.m. of December 10 to 15.

Travelers who have been to France within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, and who will arrive on December 10 to 12, shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with an RT-PCR test on the 7th day, with day one being the date of arrival.

“Notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result, the completion of the 14-day quarantine is required,” Nograles said.

Beginning 12:01 a.m. of December 13 until December 15, entry in any port of the Philippines shall not be allowed for passengers coming from or who have been to France within the last 14 days prior to arrival in the Philippines, regardless of vaccination status.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation, and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry, subject to existing testing and quarantine protocols for Red List countries/territories/jurisdictions.

“As with all international inbound travel, the testing and quarantine protocols for minors shall follow the testing and quarantine protocols of the parent/guardian traveling with them, regardless of the minor’s vaccination status,” Nograles said.

“This notwithstanding, children 3 years old and below, regardless of country of origin, shall be exempt from the requirement of presenting a negative RT-PCR test result before boarding the flight, unless symptomatic,” he added.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Palace official said that passengers who arrived prior to December 10, 2021 and are currently undergoing quarantine shall complete the testing and quarantine protocols in effect at the time of their arrival.

All passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting through France shall not be deemed as having come from or having been to said country if they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry into such country by its immigration authorities.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, they shall comply with the applicable testing and quarantine protocols for passengers who have not been to any Red List country/territory/jurisdiction.

The updated Red List comes amid the looming threat of newly discovered Omicron COVID-19 variant.

70% PUV passenger capacity, papayagan na sa NCR, karatig-probinsiya simula Dec. 9 – LTFRB

Robie de Guzman   •   December 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Ipatutupad na ng Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ang ilang pagbabago sa passenger capacity load sa public utility vehicles (PUV) simula sa Huwebes, Disyembre 9.

Ayon sa LTFRB, ang mga pagbabago ay alinsunod sa alituntuning inilabas ng Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

Batay sa LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2021-076, nasa 70% na ang papayagang passenger capacity load sa mga PUV sa National Capital Region (NCR) at mga probinsiyang kasama sa Metro Manila Urban Transportation Integration Study (MMUTIS) Update and Capacity Enhancement Project (MUCEP).

Ang mga probinsiyang ito ay kinabibilangan ng Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, at Rizal.

Para naman sa mga rehiyon na 50% passenger capacity load ang ipinaiiral sa mga PUV ngunit mayroon ng 30% Vaccination Rate ngayong Disyembre, sinabi ng LTFRB na maaari na ring iakyat sa 70% ang kanilang passenger capacity load.

“Sa mga rehiyon na maaari nang maipatupad ang 70% passenger capacity load ngunit hindi pa nakukumpirma ang 30% Vaccination Rate, kailangan magsumite ng Regional Franchising and Regulatory Board (RFRO) ng Memorandum to the Board kasama ang Certification of Vaccination Rate na manggagaling sa Regional IATF o Department of Health (DOH) Regional Office,” ayon sa ahensiya.

Para sa mga inter-regional routes, susundin ang mga sumusunod na alituntunin patungkol sa Passenger Capacity:

  • Mga PUV na bibiyahe papuntang Metro Manila, susundin ang passenger capacity ng rehiyon na pinanggalingan ng PUV
  • Sa mga PUV na bibiyahe mula Metro Manila, susundin ang passenger capacity ng rehiyon na end point ng biyahe
  • Sa mga inter-regional routes na hindi dadaan ng Metro Manila, susundin ang rehiyon na may mas mababang passenger capacity.

Paalala ng LTFRB sa transport operators na sundin ang mga patakaran ng ahensya.

Ang mga mahuhuling lalabag ay papatawan ng kaukulang parusa at multa, at maaaring tanggalan ng certipikasyon.

Epektibo ang polisiyang ito hanggang sa Enero 4, 2022.

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