Medical community offers to help DoH with contact tracing, telemedicine


THE MEDICAL community has offered to help the Department of Health (DoH) in improving the contact tracing system and use of telemedicine. These two areas, considered as “very low hanging fruits,” were discussed during a meeting between medical groups and the Health department on Monday, according to Lei Camiling-Alfonso from the Philippine Science of Public Health Physicians. “First we will help in the telenavigation and teleconsultation,” she said in a forum Tuesday by the Philippine College of Physicians. “We will also help po in the contact tracing system, and we will also help po in strengthening coordination and implementation with the LGUs (local government units),” she added. Ms. Alfonso noted that the contact tracing system should be under a digitized “single format” that could be used nationwide. “’Yung single format na to ito ho talaga ang lakas ng isang (This single format, this is really the strength of the) contact tracing system. Dapat united, pare-pareho tayo para kahit saan, pwede syang gumana (It should be united, the same system, so that it can be used anywhere),” she said. Ms. Alfonso said they will also help in manning telenavigation and telemedicine systems, particularly in emergency areas, to minimize patients going to hospitals.

Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal have been reverted to strict lockdown by the government from Aug. 4 to 18 following an appeal for a “timeout” from the medical community. Ms. Alfonso said the two-week lockdown is not enough to solve all the problems relating to the coronavirus outbreak, but everyone should maximize what they can do during the period. Philippine Medical Association President Jose P. Santiago, Jr. said these two weeks will be the “last timeout.” “We have to really maximize the last 13 days of our (strict quarantine),” he said at the same forum. “The enemy is the virus, solutions lie with the human solidarity.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Old Davao airport terminal being converted into COVID-19 holding area, testing facility underway


THE OLD terminal building at the Davao International Airport is under renovation to serve as one of the holding areas for arriving passengers while waiting for their coronavirus test result. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Davao Region office is in charge of the work, along with the installation of airconditioned tents on a vacant lot in front of the airport to house more beds. Once completed, the two facilities will have a combined 300-bed capacity. “The (DPWH) regional office is working hand in hand with LGUs (local government units) in ensuring that we will provide our people with adequate infrastructure support during these hard times. We can assure OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), LSIs (locally stranded individuals) and regular airline passengers that they will complete their temporary isolation in a safe and restful environment,” Regional Director Allan S. Borromeo said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the planned reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test facility for the airport is underway with all machines already available. “So far, complete na, we have donors for the RT-PCR Machine, RNA (ribonucleic acid) machin for the laboratory,” she announced over local radio. The city government is coordinating with the Southern Philippines Medical Center, which already runs an accredited laboratory, to have the airport facility attached to its operations. Ms. Carpio said the laboratory was initiated by the Department of Tourism as part of the plan to beef up regional airports for the revival of domestic and international tourism. — MSJ

MORE Power reports reduction in illegal connections in Iloilo City

ABOUT THREE in ten barangays in Iloilo City have been cleared of illegal connections, according to the city’s new power distributor. Razon-led MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) reported on Tuesday that the company and the city government have disconnected households that were pilfering electricity from its distribution system, which is one of the causes of power outages in the past months. Ariel Castañeda, project manager of MORE Power’s iKonek program, said more than 3,000 illegally connected households were apprehended in the last week of July. Of this number, more than 1,000 applied for connection. Mr. Castañeda said the company has simplified the application process for new connections to discourage electricity theft. “Humina ang reports ng mga (There were fewer reports of) low voltage and power outages in those areas,” Mr. Castañeda said in an online briefing. So far, the anti-pilferage operation covered 30% of Iloilo City’s villages. MORE Power estimates about 30,000 so-called “jumper connections” in the city. MORE Power, which became Iloilo City’s sole electricity distributor in February, covers over 65,000 households. — Adam J. Ang

Motorcycle back-riding allowed for health frontliners, essential workers

MEDICAL FRONTLINERS and other workers in categorized essential sectors may back-ride on a motorcycle to and from work in areas under strict lockdown, the government announced Tuesday. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, in a briefing, said the task force in charge of the coronavirus response approved the measure as Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal are placed under strict quarantine rules from Aug. 4 to 18. Public transport, except tricycles in some areas, are banned during the lockdown. Mr. Roque said riding pillion is allowed provided it is not under a hire arrangement and the government-recommended barrier is used between driver and passenger. “Ang motorsiklo po ay privately owned, hindi po siya motorcycle taxi, hindi for hire at hindi hina-hire during the trip (The motorcycle should be privately owned and not a motorcyle taxi, not for hire, and not hired during the trip),” he said. In a separate briefing, Lt. Gen. T. Guillermo Eleazar, police deputy chief for operations, said motorcycle drivers and passengers must present identification cards and other required documents to police officers manning quarantine control points or checkpoints. The driver does not have to be a medical or essential worker. “We hope that this will help our medical workers and other frontliners a lot during the entire MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) period, and we also ask motorcycle riders to follow the guidelines to ensure their smooth and safe travel,” Mr. Eleazar said. — Gillian M. Cortez and Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR

QC official reprimanded over ‘shoot-to-kill’ comment on quarantine violators

QUEZON CITY’s task force head on quarantine rules implementation has been reprimanded by national and local officials over his social media post saying violators should be shot and killed. “Ito po ay mali (This is wrong), it is inappropriate, it is irresponsible,” Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said in a briefing on Tuesday. Task Force Disiplina head Rannie Ludovica on Monday wrote on his personal Facebook page: “Mula bukas shoot to kill na ang lalabag sa MECQ.” Metro Manila, which includes Quezon City, and surrounding provinces have been reverted to a strict lockdown from August 4 to 18 to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak. Ms. Belmonte said while the post was “inappropriate,” the public should understand that Mr. Ludovica was just expressing “frustration” over continued violations of health protocols and quarantine rules. The capital Metro Manila accounts for more than half of the over 100,000 coronavirus cases in the country. Interior and Local Government  Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said Mr. Ludovica’s threat was not only improper but illegal, stressing that any measure to instill discipline on people should be within the bounds of the  law. “Local government unit department heads must be circumspect in their social media posts since this may be mistaken by their constituents as official LGU (local government) policy,” Mr. Malaya said in a statement. — Gillian M. Cortez and Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR

BI scales down main office operations

THE BUREAU of Immigration (BI) has scaled down its main office operations as Metro Manila and nearby provinces are under strict lockdown from Aug. 4 to 18 to mitigate the continued increase in coronavirus cases in the capital. The online appointment system for foreign clients is temporarily suspended until the 18th, except for those scheduled to leave within the lockdown period, according to Commissioner Jaime H. Morente. Confirmed flight bookings or tickets should be presented to gain entry at the BI headquarters in Manila. Others with confirmed appointments but leaving after the 18th may reapply for a new schedule, he said in a statement. Transactions are suspended for the following: applications for conversion to or renewal of immigrant visa; petition for recognition as Philippine citizens, including the dual citizenship law; downgrading of visa status; tourist visa extension; special work permits and provisional permit to work; renewal of alien certificate of registration; and implementation of applications for visa conversion or extension. The bureau also advised departing foreigners with tourist visas who overstayed for more than six months to just pay their visa extension fees at the airport. Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation also said clearance processing in areas under strict lockdown is suspended. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Napocor brings electricity to Mangsee Island

THE REMOTE island of Mangsee, located in the southernmost part of Palawan, now has a 200-kilowatt diesel-fired generator as power source. State-led National Power Corp. (Napocor) announced on Tuesday that it has switched on the facility, providing eight-hour electricity to some 300 households. An additional 500 customers will be connected by end-August. Two more areas in Palawan — Calandagan Island in Araceli and Bisucay Island in Cuyo — are up for electrification in the next months, Napocor said. The state firm operates 277 power plants run by small utilities in remote, off-grid areas. — Adam J. Ang