Regional Updates (07/27/20)

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Container COVID lab

A containerized RT-PCR laboratory for testing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been set up at the Bohol Medical Care Institute compound, and will now undergo the health department’s accreditation process. The Bohol provincial government, in a statement, said the P20-million contract for the facility includes all the equipment, laboratory personnel training, documents for the accreditation, and preventive maintenance for one year. The local government dismissed the claim of what it called “some rabid critics” that the project is overpriced, citing that the cities of Davao and Zamboanga bought the same testing facility for the same amount.

Gov’t says overcrowding at Rizal stadium due to unexpected stranded people

ORGANIZERS OF the government’s program in sending locally stranded people to their home provinces said the overcrowding last weekend at the Rizal Memorial Stadium was due to the arrival of individuals who were not registered for the scheduled trips. Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph B. Encabo, who heads the program, called on the public not to simply “walk-in” during the scheduled processing for health protocols. “Huwag pong padalus-dalos ang desisyon na pupunta sa venue na walang abiso dahil magkakaroon po tayo ng maraming concerns diyan, not only logistically speaking but of course, iyong accommodation ninyo at ang pagkain (Please don’t suddenly decide to go to the venue without any advisory because we will have many concerns there, not only logistically speaking but of course, also your accommodation and food),” he said in a briefing on Monday. Last Friday, the stadium was crowded with people, with hardly any social distancing observed, as trips were set for people going back to various parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. Mr. Encabo said the crowd consisted of those who were scheduled to leave and people who only walked-in that day. — Gillian M. Cortez

Killed Manila prosecutor was tailed from Laguna

THE MANILA prosecutor ambushed and killed on July 7 was tailed from Laguna by his assailants based on the probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said. Mr. Guevarra said the state agents examined closed circuit television footage and saw that Jovencio Senados, chief inquest officer of Manila, was followed all the way from Laguna. “(T)he plate number attached to the suspects’ vehicle was a fake plate number,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters via Viber, noting that the NBI also obtained copies of reports and photographs from the police. “I expect another progress report from the NBI within the week,” he added. Mr. Guevarra previously said the attack against Mr. Senados “highlights once again the grave peril that our prosecutors face each day in the discharge of their duties.” The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers has recorded 50 lawyers, judges and prosecutors killed since 2016. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Mental Health center chief, driver shot dead

THE MEDICAL chief of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) and his driver were shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Quezon City Monday morning. The police reported that Roland L. Cortez, 61, and his 46-year-old driver, Ernesto Dela Cruz, were gunned down in Barangay Culiat at around 7 a.m., soon after leaving his residence. Policemen who were on their way to a quarantine checkpoint spotted the vehicle at the gutter and stopped to inspect. A bystander told probers the suspects sped off towards Commonwealth Avenue. The victims sustained multiple gunshot wounds and police investigators recovered eight bullet casings and two fire bullets from firearms of unknown caliber at the scene. A .9mm caliber handgun was also found beside Mr. Dela Cruz’s body. Mr. Cortez became controversial in April following allegations that he and other officials were covering up cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections at the NCMH. The doctor denied the allegations saying they submit daily situation reports to the Department of Health (DoH). The NCMH has 67 COVID-19 cases among its personnel and patients, with seven deaths and 46 recoveries. The DoH said it is coordinating with the police “to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” It said, “The DoH denounces all violent acts committed against healthcare workers, especially during these difficult times.” — Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Baguio reimposes limited shopping days, liquor ban, other restrictions

BAGUIO MAYOR Benjamin B. Magalong has reimposed quarantine restrictions starting July 27 as the city’s coronavirus cases increased to 95, with 45 active, 48 recovered, and two deaths as of July 26. The renewed rules include the following: strict border control with only people on essential travel allowed in; liquor ban; two days per week shopping schedule per household; and lockdown on Sundays. In an advisory released Monday, Mr. Magalong assured residents that the health system and other protocols in place can handle the resurgence of cases, but at the same time called for the need to impose measures to mitigate potential transmissions. “Alarming as it seems, I want to assure the public that we are prepared for the surge. We have been working non-stop to keep our isolation, treatment, and critical care facilities ready,” he said. Several barangays in the city where the new patients reside have been placed on lockdown, which means no one will be allowed in or out of the village until contact tracing activities are completed. Mr. Magalong, a former police officer, has been appointed head of the COVID-19 national task force’s contact tracing system.