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Duterte proves he is not afraid of nCoV, plans to personally welcome Filipino repatriates from Wuhan on Saturday

in News/Tabloid PH News

President Duterte will continue to lead by example and show that his governance will not be hindered by the health risks posed by the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory syndrome (2019-nCoV ARD), even expressing his desire to personally receive the initial batch of Filipino repatriates from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the new coronavirus strain— on Saturday.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the Chief Executive wants to join Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in welcoming at least 42 repatriates when they arrive at the Clark International Airport and head straight to the designated quarantine area in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

This is now being discussed by Duterte with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and Presidential Management Staff (PMS), Nograles said. “The President wants to be there. He’d like to be there on Saturday pero tingnan na muna natin sa PMS and PSG…That’s going to be a debate between the President and the PSG and the PMS.”

The President, Nograles added, is also not heeding the advice to limit his public engagements and even shake hands.

“He (Duterte) just wants to keep on doing the things he’s doing without imposing limitations sa kaniyang movement. He doesn’t want to change the way he conducts his business,” Nograles said.

Duterte earlier said that “there’s nothing really to be extra-scared of that coronavirus thing.”

The Philippines recorded the first 2019-nCoV ARD death outside of China, a 44-year-old Chinese whose 38-year-old companion is now being treated for the disease. A third confirmed case in the country is a 60-year-old woman.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said that as of the afternoon of February 5, there were already 133 PUIs [patients under investigation] for nCoV, 63 of them Filipinos, 54 Chinese and the 16 others of different nationalities. “Of the 133 PUIs, 115 are admitted and isolated while 16 have been discharged under strict monitoring.” 

The DOH, with the help of the police, is now also locating over 300 individuals who had contact with the Chinese fatality and his companion. The two traveled to Dumaguete and Cebu via Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights.

At least 300 people who had contact with two nCoV patients now being traced by govt

in News/Tabloid PH News

Contact tracing of the people that came in contact with the two Chinese nationals that tested positive for the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) is now one of the top concerns of lawmakers and government officials.

This is because the two patients managed to travel to different places, such as Cebu and Dumaguete, and boarded Cebu Pacific (CEB) and Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights.

The problem now is that only 17 percent of the at least 300 persons who boarded the same planes with the Chinese patients have been accounted for by the Department of Health (DOH).

Because of this, Duque became the subject of intense grilling during the Senate inquiry on Tuesday afternoon. Senators said there was a failure of leadership on the part of Duque.

The secretary countered by saying he even personally supervised the contact tracing of the people that had contact with 2019-nCoV patients. 

He added that their search was hindered by the airlines’ reluctance to share information, citing the data privacy law. “Airlines are not sharing the contact details of the passengers. They are invoking confidentiality,”

“They’re saying that the airlines are the ones contacting the passengers and informing them and that we’re not given the number,” Duque said. “I’m told that these airlines are invoking the Data Privacy Act, I don’t know how. This is rather strange in a time of urgent situation, I do not understand why this is the case but I think that has to be investigated.”

This was, however, immediately denied by the two airlines.

PAL’s Cielo Villaluna said: ”Philippine Airlines shared contact details of passengers of the concerned flight. We shared it to enable DOH to carry out the callouts and on top of that, PAL carried out callouts.” 

Cebu Pacific, in a statement, said: “Per the request of both the DOH and BOQ, CEB has already provided a list of the passengers aboard both flights. There is no impediment whatsoever for CEB to provide any and all information that the BOH and DOQ would need from us for their purposes.”

But Duque is also looking at possible mishandling by DOH officials. “Heads will roll… Somebody’s head is really going to roll,” Duque said, without giving names.

Reports said the two Chinese patients boarded 5J 241 (Hong Kong-Cebu, January 21), DG 6519 (Cebu-Dumaguete, January 21), and Philippine Airlines’ PR 2542 (Dumaguete to Manila -Jan 25). 

PH may ban travelers from all countries with 2019-nCoV cases depending on WHO report

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Philippines could impose travel restrictions, not just for people coming from China, but also for all the other countries that reported confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are now waiting for the risk assessment reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine what actions to take regarding the travel ban.

The initial subject of the restriction, he said, is only Hubei Province in China, the place where the new coronavirus strain originated. But this could extend to the whole of China and other countries.

“We have to look at the numbers also. We have to be careful because some of the numbers might be very few in some cases and there are some countries reporting also, and we might also extend that ban to al the other 14 to 17 countries, so kailangang pag-isipan maigi,” Duque said in an interview with ANC on Friday (January 31).

He said he will convene a meeting among the members of the inter-agency task force that includes the DOH, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism and Department of Transportation, among others.

Duque said extending the coverage of the ban is the direction they are taking, pending the risk assessment report from the WHO. The recommendation approved by President Duterte, he added, already included this possibility of extending the ban to other places.

“That is the direction we are taking. I recommended a temporary restriction of travelers to Manila from Hubei, with the possibility that as soon as we get the risk assessment by the WHO, that many other provinces are in fact reporting increasing numbers of nCoV infection, we will include them in the travel restriction. The President already approved this recommendation,” he said.

This ban, he clarified, is not just for Chinese tourists, but all travelers.

Right now, Duque said the government already put in place a 14-day quarantine procedures for people coming from areas with nCoV cases, and this will include Filipinos that will be repatriated from Hubei.

The WHO has already declared the 2019-nCoV as a global heath emergency, which means all governments are advised to take measures that will prevent the cross-border spread of the novel coronavirus.

In the Philippines, one confirmed case has been reported, with 31 other individuals identified as persons under investigation. 

Filipinos rush to buy face masks while calls for ban on Chinese entry to PH mount after first nCoV case

in News/Tabloid PH News

Filipinos panicked after hearing the official news from the Department of Health (DOH) of the first confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) case in the country, with videos proliferating on social media showing long queues of people buying face masks in drugstores.

Also, calls to temporarily ban people traveling from China reverberated, with some again using this development to criticize the Duterte administration for not immediately imposing the travel ban after news of the spread of 2019-nCoV broke out.

In a statement, Senator Ralph Recto said: “I think it is time to put a temporary ‘do not enter’ sign on our doorstep for visitors from China.” The Senate President Pro Tempore added: “Let us explain to them that we are not permanently closing our doors. This is not a permanent Great Wall. This is only during the duration of the coronavirus crisis.”

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the travel ban must firmly include both air and sea travel to prevent a local outbreak. “This includes a temporary ban on all cruise ships from docking at any of our ports.”

Senator Bong Go, President Duterte’s former special assistant, supported the call.

Before this, the DOH said there is still no need to prevent the entry of Chinese to the country, as this may strain the Manila-Beijing diplomatic relations. Now, this pronouncement is being used by Duterte bashers to criticize the government.

On Thursday afternoon (January 30), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced that a 38-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, China has been confirmed to be positive for 2019-nCoV. She arrived in the Philippines via Hongkong on January 21 and admitted in public on January 25 after experiencing a mild cough. The woman did not show other signs of illnesses.

Duque’s announcement read: ”I assure the public that the DOH is on top of this evolving situation. We were able to detect the first confirmed case because of our strong surveillance system, close coordination with the World Health Organization and other national agencies.”

“We are working closely with the hospital where the patient is admitted and have activated the incident command system of the said hospital for appropriate management specifically on infection control, case management and containment. We are also implementing measures to protect the health staff providing care to these patients.”

The DOH is now in the midst of contact tracing to know where the Chinese woman went in the country and who she can in contact with. It has been reported that she went to Cebu and Dumaguete.

Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the DOH spokesman, said she was brought to a hospital in Manila.

Just an hour after the DOH confirmation of the first 2019-nCoV case here, Filipinos started lining up in drugstores to buy face masks. This was shown in videos posted on Twitter by Raffy Tima and Miranda de Quiros taken in Manila and Quezon City, respectively.

EDITORIAL: DOH should be lauded for immediately treating 2019-nCoV a public health emergency

in News/Tabloid PH News

The pronouncement of the Department of Health (DOH) that the government is already treating the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) as a public health emergency even if no domestic case has been confirmed yet as of January 24 is indeed laudable.

This only shows that the DOH is now ready to take proactive measures to make sure the new coronavirus strain that originated from Wuhan will not reach Philippine shores; or if it is already here, it would not infect more Filipinos.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said it well in an interview with ANC: “We are treating it as a public health emergency. We want to make sure that if it does get here, we are able to contain it, isolate it.”

Declaring a public health emergency allows the DOH and other concerned agencies to tap the necessary resources to make sure proper actions and measures will be in place to prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV.  In the United States, where there is a confirmed 2019-nCoV case already, a public health emergency declaration releases resources meant to handle an actual or potential public health crisis.

Why is this important? We all know how unscrupulous traders took advantage of the ash fall that reached Metro Manila after the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano last January 12. Due to the sudden spike in demand for face masks, some establishments reportedly raised the prices of their N95 and surgical masks, prompting the DOH and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement a price freeze and conduct operations against erring retailers and suppliers.

With the 2019-nCoV feared to be communicable, face masks would again be in demand. With the declaration of a public health emergency, authorities will be able to guard the public against overpricing and hoarding of N95 and other face masks again.

This is just an example. Of course, there are many other things that the government needs to do to shield Filipinos from this new strain of coronavirus. Some measures would certainly entail more budget, so the DOH and other concerned agencies should not be hindered by bureaucratic red tape in getting needed funds. 

In China, for instance, the Chinese government has started building a new 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan solely for coronavirus patients. The Philippine government, of course, does not need to do this also for now. However, interventions of a smaller magnitude—but would entail additional funding—need to be undertaken also as proactive measures. Ensuring adequate medicines and facilities for 2019-nCoV patients are examples. At the ports of entry, the quarantine personnel, as well as their testing capabilities, should be enhanced. Authorities should also prepare to dedicate experts and resources for the isolation of people suspected as being infected by the deadly virus.

The DOH is still waiting for the result of the confirmatory test on a five-year-old Chinese who arrived in sick in Cebu from Wuhan. Also, a 36-year-old Filipino worker in Wuhan just came homesick and is now in a hospital in Tacloban. 

While there is no confirmation yet that the 2019-nCoV is already here in the Philippines, it is indeed a positive signal that the DOH has declared that it already considers the spread of the new coronavirus strain as a public health emergency. Caution and preparedness are paramount in situations like this. As the saying goes—better safe than sorry.

Duque: Manila awaits advice from WHO on need to impose travel restrictions vs Chinese nationals

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Philippines would not jump the gun and restrict the travel of Chinese nationals into the country this early to help contain the spread of a new strain of the deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they would still wait for official word from the World Health Organization (WHO) if there is a need to impose travel restrictions, especially with the coming Chinese New Year when more tourists from China are expected.

Interviewed over radio station DZBB on Wednesday (January 22), Duque said: “‘Yung usapin po na travel restriction ay pinag-iisipan na po ‘yan, pinag-uusapan nang malaliman ng WHO kasi kinakailangan kung magkakaroon ng travel restriction, ang mangunguna na dapat magsagawa nito ay ang China mismo… Sila mismo ang pipigil sa kanilang mga mamamayan sa pagbiyahe palabas ng China.”

The Philippines has placed under observation a five-year-old Chinese who arrived sick in Cebu from Wuhan recently. Health officials are determining if it was another case of the new coronavirus strain.

Duque said the situation is “very fluid” at this time. “Maghihintay tayo ng malinaw na gabay o guidelines mula sa World Health Organization na sila naman ang oras-oras na nakikipag-ugnayan sa Chinese Center for Disease Control at saka sa Chinese Ministry of Health.” 

The Philippines is receiving plenty of Chinese visitors, not just for tourism and leisure, but also work-related, as Chinese nationals man numerous offshore gaming hubs in the country. 

The Department of Tourism reported that in the first 10 months of 2019, a total of 1,499,524 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, 41.13 higher compared to the same period in 2018.

Chinese nationals are expected to travel to different locations for the Chinese New Year (January 25) holidays.

In the meantime, Duque advised Filipinos to avoid crowded places, wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing, and to strengthen their immune system.

The DOH is also prepared for the possible widespread use of N95 masks once the situation requires it.

“Of course, makakatulong ‘yan (N95 masks) pero sa ngayon, hindi pa naman natin kinakailangan pa dahil wala pa namang abiso ang World Health Organization… Pero handa naman tayo na dapat maging available ang N95 masks para mapigilan ang paglanghap nag contaminated na hangin,” he said.

How the ashfall from Taal Volcano can harm you

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Department of Health (DOH) has advised the public to minimize exposure to the volcanic ash blown to Metro Manila cities after the Taal Volcano eruption on Sunday (January 12).

This is because the ashfall contains harmful substances such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, fluorine and hydrochloric acid, among others.

Among the harmful effects of volcanic ash are: nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation and skin irritation.

Particularly vulnerable to these harmful substances are people suffering from asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is why they are advised to remain indoors. 

Interviewed over radio station DZMM, pulmonologist Giancarlo Arandia said the ash particles are so small that can easily enter the openings of the respiratory system.

Those who can’t avid gong outdoors, Arandia said they should use N95 masks or damp towel in covering their nose.

Ophthalmologist Nilo Flor Cruz also told DZMM: “Irritating ‘yung ash na ‘yon dahil medyo acidic ‘yon eh. Kung dati sa panahon ng Pinatubo, pwedeng mangalawang ‘yung mga bubong, paano pa ‘yung mata natin.”

He recommended the use eye of lubricant drops to remove the tiny ashes and also regular washing of the face.

The Philippine office of the World Health Organization gave these recommendations to the public: stay indoors unless absolutely necessary; avoid low-lying areas and areas downwind from the volcano; for children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems, wear masks that block small particles of ash; for the general population, wear a simple mask; wear protective eye gear; make sure food and water you consume are safe.

DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after the spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

in News/Tabloid PH News

Passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong will be made to undergo physical tests, including temperature scanners, upon arrival at Philippine airports to make sure the currently unknown disease that has infected more than 50 people in Wuhan, China will not enter the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday (January 6).

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, DOH spokesman, said arriving passengers would be quarantined if necessary, especially if they were found to have flu-like symptoms and coughs.

“Doble bantay lang po sa mga flights galing China at Hong Kong para ma-detect lang po natin agad kung may mga pasaherong may lagnat. I-interviewin, phyisical exam at kung meron nakitang dahilan, baka kailangan natin i-quarantine,” Domingo said in an interview over DZMM radio station.

According to the report of Agence France-Press, the Wuhan infection broke out between 12 and 29 December, with some of the patients employed at a seafood market in the city that has since been closed for disinfection. No obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found so far, added the province’s health commission. 

Domingo said there is still no indication if the disease is caused by the SARS virus, which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2003. 

Still, Domingo advised Filipinos traveling to China and Hong Kong to avoid going to populous places. They should also wear face masks and regularly wash their hands. He said Hong Kong was included on the watch list because two of its residents returned home sick from Wuhan.

Domingo also urged Filipinos who just arrived from China and Hong Kong to immediately see a doctor if they are not feeling well. “Pa-check up na, lalo na sa mga infectious disease hospitals like San Lazaro, para malaman natin and avoid na rin makahawa,” he said.

Domingo stressed that the Philippines need to handle the matter with prudence since it is a new disease and “we don’t know yet its extent”. The DOH’s Bureau of Quarantine at the airports, he said, is already on top of the matter.

DOH, EcoWaste insist total ban on fireworks only way to prevent injuries during revelries

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Department of Health (DOH) is still pushing for a total ban on firecrackers and fireworks despite the huge 35-percent drop in the number of related injuries during the 2019 holiday season revelries.

This was seconded by environmental advocate EcoWaste Coalition, which insisted that the only way to prevent injuries is to totally ban the traditional use of fireworks in greeting the start of a new year.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, in an interview with GMA News on Thursday (January 2), said the problem with a selective or partial ban is people are still getting hurt by legal types of firecrackers.

This was evident in the last revelries, where the majority of injuries were due to the use of legal fireworks, like those commonly called by Filipinos as kwitis, luces and fountain.

“Ang stand po ng Department of Health sana magkaroon natayo ng batas na talagang maging illegal na lang lahat ng fireworks, lalong-lalo na po kung gagamitin sa bahay or for personal use,” Domingo said in the interview.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported on Wednesday that only 164 firecracker-related injuries were recorded by the DOH from December 1 to January 1, 35 percent lower than the 251 cases in the previous same period.

The DOH chief attributed the considerable drop in injuries to the implementation of Executive Order 28, which limits the use of firecrackers in the country, as well as the department’s information campaign “IwasPaputok”.

Still, EcoWaste said in a statement that to achieve zero injury and zero pollution during the New Year revelry, “we need to seriously look at banning firecrackers and fireworks altogether.”

“We are saddened and dismayed by the bodily injuries inflicted by firecrackers and fireworks, especially on young victims. One injury is one too many and our society has to do more to discontinue the bloody and polluting tradition of ringing in the New Year with firecrackers and fireworks, legal or not,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner at EcoWaste.

The government, the group added, should look for alternative livelihood for the sectors that will be affected by a total ban on fireworks.

Domingo said the use of fireworks should only be allowed during “well-controlled and organized” events.

DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Department of Health (DOH) welcomed the policy pronouncement of President Duterte banning vaping in public places.

Health Undersecretary Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo said they will now wait for the executive order (EO) to be issued by the Office of the President to determine how it would be properly implemented.

“Very clear yung words ng Presidente, kung saan bawal magsigarilyo, bawal din mag-vape,” Domingo said.

For the enforcement side, Domingo said the DOH will coordinate with the police and the local government units.

As for the ban, the DOH will be working with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Domingo is also the officer in charge of the FDA.

Domingo said the DOH already released last August an administrative order (AO) tasking the FDA to regulate the sale of vapes. However, sellers managed to secure temporary restraining orders from two regional trial courts against the AO. 

“Because of the TRO, we had to put the regulation on hold; but we are fighting for it. So now they can continue selling vapes unregulated. But when we see the actual EO of the President, we will work on that immediately,” Domingo said.

He stressed that they would not just accept the argument that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking. “Even if you say it is less harmful, still it is harmful, and we need further studies on that.”

He recalled that some 40 years ago, regulators were saying that “cigarette smoking may be harmful to your health.” Now, it has confirmed that smoking really kills. “So we should not wait for another 40 years to say that vaping can really kill people,” he said.

Amid ASF scare, Visayas provinces urged to just impose conditional ban as region faces shortage of pork supply

in Tabloid PH News

The group of big producers of processed meat urged some provinces in the Visayas to downgrade their total ban on pork products to just a “conditional ban”, as the region would be experiencing supply shortage starting next week.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) said under a conditional ban, only those that do not have the required certificates of safety, health and quality compliance will not be allowed to enter certain areas.

“I agree with conditional bans. Conditional ban means products will not be allowed if they do not carry the necessary certificates,” PAMPI spokesman Rex Agarrado said in an interview with GMA News.

Currently, the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Davao City, and Negros Occidental have imposed a total ban on the entry, distribution and sale of pork and pork products from Luzon as a way to prevent the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the region. The Department of Health (DOH) earlier confirmed that pigs in several Luzon farms have been infected with ASF.

Agarrado stressed that if these provinces would retain their hardline stance on the total ban, the Visayas could run out of stocks of pork and pork products as early as next week.

“In the coming week, I would expect shortages to happen. For canned meat products, we possibly would have longer inventories but they certainly will not be longer than the 90-day ban that has been set forth by the imposing LGU’s,” he said in the interview with GMA News.

The ban, he said, has already prompted logistics firms to halt the shipment of frozen and canned pork products to the Visayas. “The supplies in those areas are really limited. I would venture to say that the inventories in those areas are only two weeks to possibly four weeks at the most.”

With this, Agarrado said concerned agencies such as the  Departments of Agriculture, Health, Trade and Industry, and Interior and Local Government should step in to address the problem.

A supply shortage automatically translates to higher prices, to the detriment of consumers.

“Today, our ability to replenish the stocks are being deterred by shipping companies telling us that anyway, the shipments will not be received so they would rather not also receive our shipments coming here from Luzon,” Agarrado said.

Ban on use of Dengvaxia stays—DOH’s Duque

in News/Tabloid PH News

Despite calls from several groups to allow the limited use of Dengvaxia amid the dengue epidemic, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Thursday (August 22) that the appeal of Sanofi Pasteur seeking to reverse the revocation of its certificate of product registration (CPR) for the dengue vaccine has been thumbed down.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the denial of Sanofi’s appeal dated August 19 was due to the French manufacturer’s “continued failure to submit post-approval requirements.”

Dengvaxia’s CPR was canceled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last February, effectively banning the use of the vaccine in the country.

“The decision concerns Sanofi’s complete disregard of FDA regulations, which were precisely put in place by law to ensure safety,” Duque said.

He added: “The DOH is committed to strong and strict implementation of our health laws and regulations. We know how critical this is to our efforts to rebuild public trust and confidence in our public health programs and in vaccines that have long been proven effective.” 

He, however, clarified that Sanofi can still apply for a new CPR for Dengvaxia, especially at this time when the country is in a state of national dengue epidemic, with the number of dengue cases about to breach 200,000 already this year.

Even President Duterte had said he is open to the use of Dengvaxia again. ”Now, compare it vis-à-vis to those who died, I want to hear the words of the experts, doctors, and we have enough bright people to tell us. I don’t need foreigners to tell me, my own Filipino scientists and doctors would tell me what to do. I will be guided by their announcements,” he said.

Sanofi failed to submit its third risk management plan (RMP), a post-marketing requirement meant to ensure public safety.

It also failed to submit fresh data on its “pharmacovigilance and post-marketing surveillance” programs. 

These reports should detail the monitoring of Dengvaxia’s effects on some 830,000 students vaccinated through the Dengue Immunization Program at the tail end of the Aquino administration in 2016.

Declaration of ‘national dengue epidemic’ likely

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Department of Health (DOH) has set a meeting today to validate figures that will be used as basis in upgrading the current “national dengue alert” to a “national dengue epidemic” to enable the government to better mobilize resources in preventing the further spread of the deadly disease.

Interviewed at the ABS-CBN News Channel, DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said they are now getting all the data from the previous weeks. They have found out that in just a span of one week—or in the third week of July—there were 10,000 cases of dengue reported.

Current estimated cases of dengue nationwide have reached 146,000 already.

Last July 15, Health Secretary Francisco Duque declared a national dengue alert. Data reaching Duque that time showed the dengue cases had risen to 106,630 from January 1 to June 29, 2019, from only 57,564 cases in the same period last year. Regions Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Northern Mindanao had exceeded the epidemic threshold. Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera Administrative Region, on the other hand, exceeded the alert threshold.

Today, Domingo said more regions exceeded the epidemic threshold, including Calabrazon, Bicol and Eastern Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula. Bordering between alert and epidemic levels are Ilocos region, Central Visayas and BARMM.

A national epidemic can be declared if at least half of the country’s regions have reached the epidemic level.

“We are going to consolidate all the data today and have a meeting at the department for that,” Domingo said. “Once we get all the information in, yes, it is very likely (that we will declare a national dengue epidemic).”

He noted that by declaring a national epidemic, government resources and instrumentalities will be mobilized further.

“We get to work with other govt agencies, the DILG, PNP, Department of Education, and tighten up our activities a little more and raise up the bar, because when we have these cases going on. we really have to do everything to make sure they don’t increase,” he added. “You can activate the NDRRMC and (have) all the government (agencies) working together for one particular activity, in this case, prevention of dengue.”

The problem, he said, will likely persist up to September due to the rainy season, noting that water that remained stagnant for three days is enough to breed mosquitoes. 

The best thing to do on the part of the public for now, Domingo added, is to ensure they maintain cleanliness in their surroundings, remove all stagnant water and have proper attire for kids. 

The hospitals are ready to treat patients suspected with dengue, especially those with continuous fever for three days.

Senators to start Philhealth probe even sans Duque

in News/Tabloid PH News

Senators are bent on starting its probe on the reported multibillion-peso scam at the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) even if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would not be able to attend the first hearing as he supervises efforts to address the dengue outbreak in the country.

Duque will be quizzed by members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for his alleged involvement in the overpayment of Philhealth benefits to hospitals and the reported dealings of his family-owned companies with Philhealth and the Department of Health (DOH)

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, said he wants hearings to start by Friday, with former officials of Philhealth and DOH already summoned to answer queries from the senators.

Gordon said they want to establish immediately how Philhealth funds are being managed and what led to the overpayment of benefits to hospitals that caused the state corporation to lose P154 billion.

In his State of the Nation Address last Monday, President Duterte said he already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to identify all the officials of public and private institutions involved in the hospital bogus claims. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, wants Duque to explain to the committee why the DOH and Philhealth had contracts with corporations owned by the Health secretary’s family.

Lacson, according to a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer,  criticized Duque for allowing Philhealth to lease a space in a family-owned building in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. The Duque-owned Doctors’ Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DPI), meanwhile, supplied medicines to DOH. Lacson, the report added, also linked Duque to the reported overpayments of PhilHealth to private hospitals, including one supposedly owned by a godson of the health chief. 

These, Lacson said, constitute a conflict of interest. 

It was Lacson who exposed the bogus claims scam involving Philhealth and certain hospitals and clinics.

Duque has already informed the Blue Ribbon Committee that he is currently too preoccupied with the dengue outbreak and will not be able to attend the Senate probe.

Dengvaxia back in Philippine spotlight

in News/Tabloid PH News

Manila, Philippines — Controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia is hugging the headlines in the country anew, with doctors and scientists urging the government to lift the ban on the Sanofi-made vaccine following the doubling of dengue cases in the Philippines this year.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed dengue has already claimed the lives of 561 people as of July 13. Nationwide, the number of dengue cases rose to more than 130,000, nearly doubling the 67,690 recorded in the same period last year with 367 deaths. Children aged 5 to 9 were the most vulnerable with about 30,000 cases year-to-date. From July 7 to 13 alone, the DOH recorded 8,295 cases already.

Western Visayas, which includes the provinces of Negros Occidental, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo and Guimaras, had the most incidence with 18,943 cases and 95 deaths.

With the alarming rise in dengue cases, the Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare (DTPW) said it is high time the government lifted the ban on Dengvaxia. 

“The Philippines has the highest incidence and death rate from dengue in this part of the world. Yet it is the only country in the world that has banned it,” Dr. Minguita Padilla, DTPW co-convener, was quoted in a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Led by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, DTPW is composed of physicians, scientists, educators, former secretaries of health, and past and present heads of various professional medical associations and nongovernmental organizations.

“The vaccine need not be included in the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) of the government so that [the] government need not spend for it. But at least make it available to physicians to offer for the millions of patients who can benefit from it,” Padilla said. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) canceled the certificates of product registration (CPRs) of Dengvaxia last February due to Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.’s alleged disregard of the agency’s rules and regulations.

One month later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 19 health officials and drug executives for the deaths of children who received Dengvaxia shots.

Garin was the DOH secretary in the tail end of the Aquino administration when the P3.5-billion mass dengue immunization program was implemented by the government.

They were charged for “inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight” and because they “totally disregarded the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine”.

Former President Benigno Aquino III said the Dengvaxia issue was just used to demonize the former administration and that the rise in dengue cases would have been avoided if the program was continued.

“The thing that could have protected the health of our citizens cannot deliver anymore because of politics and a lot of bad motivation,” Aquino said in a report of the Philippine Star. “The protection that could have been given to a lot of people was not given… It is like a scandal and an alarm. If there are people who were killed, they should be held liable.”

Aquino, who was also investigated for his role in the controversy, is turning the tables on his detractors, saying those behind the plot to scare away Filipinos from the use of Dengvaxia should be held accountable.

It was actually President Duterte’s Spokesman Salvador Panelo who first floated the idea of allowing the use of Dengvaxia in the country again in response to the rise in dengue cases.

“If we know that Dengvaxia could be used for seropositive patients, then why don’t we try it? We will just consider it. We have to make a study. As I said earlier, it needs, requires a serious study before we can use it,” he told reporters. “Why not use Dengvaxia for those who already had dengue before? Because it would surely work there. Mine is only a suggestion. But didn’t they say that the dengue cases are worsening? We need a vaccine for that.”

Photo Credit: PhilStar / Kriz John

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