4 caught for selling overpriced thermal scanners, masks face inquest

THE FOUR persons arrested for selling overpriced thermal scanners and medical masks were presented for inquest Monday, an official of the Department of Justice said. Undersecretary Markk L. Perete said the four who were working in two medical supply establishments in Manila are facing complaints for violation of profiteering and hoarding under Republic Act No. 7581, or The Price Act and Unconscionable Sales Act or Practice, and Republic Act No. 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines. They were arrested following an entrapment operation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry. The NBI on Saturday said it raided medical supply stores in Manila, which resulted in the confiscation of 1,360 thermal scanners and 7,680 face masks worth P10 million. The operation came following reports that thermal scanners, which supposedly cost P1,000 each, were being sold at P8,000 per piece. Arrested were the assistant manager, cashier and sales ladies. The owner who was not present at the store during the operation will also be charged. Another establishment in Rizal was also raided for selling overpriced isopropyl alcohol. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Air quality in QC improves since community quarantine enforcement

AIR QUALITY in Quezon City has improved since the enhanced community quarantine measure was implemented last March 16 due to the spread of the new coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. The Environmental Pollution Studies Laboratory (EPSL) reported on Tuesday that there has been a decline of about 180% in fine dust particles (Particulate Matter / PM 2.5) based on several air quality measurement systems placed around the city. During ordinary Thursdays, fine dust particles peak to 38 micrograms per cubic meter, which can be harmful to sensitive groups. These dust particles can penetrate the lungs, cause shortness of breath, and may aggravate pre-existing respiratory conditions. EPSL founding head Mylene G. Cayetano, in an e-mail yesterday, credited the improved air quality to lesser vehicles on the road and less human activities that contribute to city air pollution. “Majority of the air pollution comes from vehicle emissions. Cordoning off East Ave and Quezon Ave, both hospital zones, brings positive feedback of cleaning the air. The COVID-19 patients and the rest of the patients present in these QC hospital zones have either obstructive or restrictive breathing, thus, are in much need of clean air,” Ms. Cayetano said. The air quality measurement systems are a project of the Rotary Club of Makati in collaboration with the Lung Center of the Philippines, and the University of the Philippines Diliman Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

1st COVID-19 patient in Eastern Visayas out of ‘critical condition’

THE DEPARTMENT of Health-Eastern Visayas (DoH-8) office assured the public that the first confirmed COVID-19 patient in the region is “no longer in critical condition” and that all measures are continuously being undertaken to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus disease. “She would have been discharged today (March 23) had the result been negative. It means the patient is no longer in critical condition,” DoH-8 Regional Director Minerva P. Molon said in a live-streamed briefing late Monday. The patient is a 51-year old female from Northern Samar province. She is currently confined at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) in Tacloban City, the designated referral hospital.

The patient arrived in the Philippines from Japan on January 2 and stayed in Manila until March 2. She went home to Northern Samar on March 3 and went for consultation in a private hospital on March 7 due to difficulty in breathing. She was transferred to EVRMC on March 12. “The patient’s condition improved and was subsequently wheeled out of the ICU (intensive care unit) with an occasional cough,” Ms. Molon said. “With this evolving situation, I assure the public that DoH is on top of the situation… we were able to manage the patient who has greatly improved and is now recovering,” she added. Meanwhile, contact tracing is continuing while the medical workers who came into contact with the patient have been placed under quarantine. As of March 23, there were 237 persons under investigation (PUIs) in the region, including 15 in hospital, 31 discharged, and the rest under strict monitoring. “With the current situation in the region, again, I urge the public to stay calm and remain vigilant at all times. Take seriously the stringent social distancing, continue to practice good personal hygiene and cough manner,” Ms. Molon said. Community quarantine measures are in place in Tacloban City and other parts of the region.

2 Mindanao universities step up to address COVID-19 threat


TWO state-run universities in Mindanao are taking action to help mitigate the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), with one proposing a diagnostic program and the other has started fabricating face shields for frontliners. The University of the Philippines Mindanao (UP-Min), in a press statement, said it is working on a P15 million biosafety molecular laboratory that can help the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in testing COVID-19. Lyre Anni E. Murao, UP-Mindanao professor of virology and director of the Philippine Genome Center-Mindanao (PGM-Mindanao), wrote in her proposal that the molecular laboratory is intended to “back up the existing facility in SPMC and to prepare for the unprecedented peak of outbreak of the disease.” She also said, “(I)t is only imperative to consider the establishment of another diagnostic facility for faster and efficient diagnosis for coronavirus.” Ms. Murao said the PGC-Mindanao will be tasked with capability building through “trainings for our partner hospital on biosafety procedures and molecular diagnostics.” Based on the proposal, the laboratory can operate at full capacity of 96 tests a day with a monthly operational cost of P10.3 million, including the purchase of kits, reagents and consumables.

The University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP), meanwhile, has started producing face shields at its Fabrication Laboratory, also known as Digihub FabLab. Health workers at the COVID-19 referral hospitals in Davao Region will be the initial recipients of the products. “These face shields will be distributed to the medical health workers of Southern Philippines Medical Center and Davao Region Medical Center,” USeP said on its Facebook page. — Carmelito Q. Francisco