National Policy against Covid-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., on Thursday said active cases are gradually decreasing with the government's efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

4 digits na lang! COVID-19 response chief notes decrease in active COVID-19 cases

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National Policy against Covid-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., on Thursday said active cases are gradually decreasing with the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

In a virtual press briefing, Galvez said the recorded 88,000 active cases on August 15, which he attributed as the highest surge of Covid-19, have dropped to only 46,000.

In Metro Manila, he said, the recorded 20,000 active cases in September were reduced to only 7,830 active cases.

“Meaning from 20 percent active cases, now, it’s only 6 percent of the active cases,” he said.

Galvez noted that there is a “negative growth” of Covid-19 cases within Metro Manila.

He also reported that some 12 cities have recorded 90 percent of Covid-19 recoveries.

Expanded pandemic response

As per the recommendation of experts, Galvez said the government commits to strictly enforce the so-called seven commandments for all public transportation which include wearing of proper face masks, wearing of face shields, no talking and eating policy, provision of adequate ventilation, frequent disinfection, disallowing symptomatic passengers as well as strict observance of physical distancing measures.

Galvez cited that observance of physical distancing is vital in sustaining gains against Covid-19.

He said the government will still implement the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Recovery strategy under the third phase of the national action plan (NAP 3).

Galvez said the NAP 3 will serve as the country’s transition plan going to the new normal.

“We will emphasize more on the prevention and detection side,” he said.

He added that the government’s “Ingat Buhay Para sa Hanapbuhay” along with the private sector’s “Ingat Angat Tayong Lahat” have provided good traction in the country’s prevention strategy drive.

Under the detection strategy, Galvez said the government established Covid-19 Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) team at the barangay level to maintain active case finding and syndromic surveillance.

They are tasked to immediately separate the symptomatic individuals away from the community, even without testing for Covid-19.

The government, meanwhile, will strictly impose the expanded Oplan Kalinga, which disallows anyone to undergo home quarantine.

“We are encouraging coronavirus patients to avoid home quarantine,” Galvez said.

Under the treatment strategy, Galvez said the government will intensify the ‘One Hospital Command’ policy while strengthening the quarantine measures and minimum health standards in all business establishments and workplaces.

“Our strategy is to open up our economy, to provide sufficient transportation for workers while ensuring health and safety our fellow citizens,” he said.

The government seeks to establish strong links and partnerships among LGUs, the private sector, and other stakeholders in a bid to intensify the country’s responses to the pandemic.

He said the national government targets to further institutionalize the pandemic response down to the cities, municipalities, and at the barangay level.

The One Hospital Command referral system will be replicated in all regional levels along with the LGUs, health professionals, the business sector, religious and key stakeholders that are working together within the Covid-19 one-stop-shop center, he added.

“We will carry out aggressive contact tracing, testing, treatment, and isolation measures so that we can bring down our active cases to the lowest manageable percentage,” Galvez said.

Ways forward

Galvez earlier said political bickering in some LGUs has affected the imposition of pandemic interventions and other efforts to curve the spread of the Covid-19.

“We bridge political division through the unity of efforts and unity of command process,” he said.

The National Task Force on Covid-19, Galvez said, has been encouraging local leaders to set aside differences to perform well amid the pandemic.
Galvez said the government targets to reduce active cases and minimize deaths while increasing the recovery rate.

“With all of this, I am confident, we can further reduce the transmission, gradually bring our vibrant economy back as we transitioned to the new normal,” said Galvez.

On the other hand, Galvez admitted that the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has a significant part in the country’s testing capacity.

Galvez thanked the PRC for its contribution to further expand the country’s testing capacity and effective handling of the country’s one-stop shops for returning OFWs and seafarers.

He noted that the government is still trying to resolve the matter between PRC and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Galvez said Dante Gierran, the newly appointed PhilHealth chief, would just “want to make sure that all of this is in order.”

“I believed that the major consequence of the Red Cross’ stoppage is stemmed to those returning OFWs,” Galvez said, in the light of the issue wherein the PRC halted the coronavirus tests that are being charged to the PhilHealth.

Those Covid-19 test samples — deemed affected by the PRC’s stoppage, would temporarily be delivered to the government’s testing facilities, Galvez said, while PhilHealth is settling the matter with the PRC.

He said LGUs also have laboratories to accept tests for the first and second contacts of the Covid-19 patients, following the decision of the PRC to stop testing the specimen of returning OFWs, those arriving in airports and seaports, those in mega swabbing facilities, and frontline health and government workers. (PNA)

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Covid’s impact could mean millions more child marriages: Unicef

The outsized impact Covid-19 has had on women in some countries could result in an additional 10 million child marriages in this decade, according to a new analysis released Monday by Unicef.

“School closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage,” said a study titled “Covid-19: A threat to progress against child marriage.”

That trend, if confirmed, would represent a serious retreat from recent years of progress against child marriage.

In the last 10 years, according to the study, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had declined by 15 percent, from nearly one in four to one in five.

That progress “is now under threat,” said the study, released on International Women’s Day.

“Covid-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.

“Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out.”

Girls who marry in childhood, the study said, are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school. They face an increased risk of early and unplanned pregnancy, and maternal complications and mortality.

Isolation from family and friends can take “a heavy toll on their mental health.”

Meantime, pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing have made it harder for girls “to access the health care, social services and community support that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and gender-based violence,” while making it more likely that they drop out of school.

In addition, families facing economic hardship may seek to marry off their daughters to ease financial burdens.

The report estimates that 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, about half of them in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India or Nigeria.

Fore called for countries to reopen schools, implement legal reforms, ensure access to health and social services while providing measures to protect families.

By doing so, she said, “we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.” © Agence France-Presse

China’s congress spins out bold and bizarre ideas

Widely viewed as a rubber-stamp for the nation’s Communist Party rulers, China’s annual parliament still spins out a barrage of bold and bizarre proposals which may hint at the thinking inside Beijing’s cloistered corridors of power.

The week-long political spectacle sees about 3,000 appointed lawmakers meet, while another 2,000-odd advisers discuss ideas on how to iron out wrinkles in China’s business and social fabric.

The latter group — known as the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), includes business tycoons such as Netease founder Ding Lei, Yao Ming of NBA fame, and technocrats such as Gao Fu, the head China’s centre for disease control.

Most of their proposals fall by the wayside, but some later emerge into law.

Here are a few recommendations that have made waves on Chinese social media:

– Lessons in love –

Can love be taught in the classroom? With fewer people tying the knot and not enough babies to power China’s economy, a government adviser thinks it is time college students got mandatory lessons in “romance and marriage”.

“Young people have very little understanding of how to face an emotional crisis or sexual problems,” Yu Xinwei, vice-president of Guangzhou University, said.

China’s divorce rate has soared in recent years, prompting lawmakers to introduce a 30-day cooling-off period before couples break up.

– Man camps –

Boys should be encouraged to play competitive sports such as football and basketball “to increase their masculinity”, reads a proposal by parliamentarian Xiong Sidong. “While girls should pursue rhythmic gymnastics, yoga and other exercises to increase their flexibility.”

According to him, Chinese boys are too “timid, quiet and dependent”, contrary to the “traditional qualities of manliness”, which has created “social and family problems”.

Such gender-differentiated classes would allow “natural and healthy development”, Xiong said.

The proposal met with derision online, with many saying children should be allowed to choose classes based on their interests and not their gender.

– Hacker stars –

The government should recognise hackers as “special talents” and take steps to “strengthen their loyalty to the nation”, said Zhou Hongyi, founder of internet security firm Qihoo 360 and a member of the advisory body.

State-sponsored hacking groups operating out of China have been accused of attempting to steal secrets from foreign businesses including Microsoft and Airbus and even causing a recent blackout in India’s financial hub Mumbai.

– Farewell to English? –

English is a compulsory subject offered from grades one through 12 in China’s national curriculum as the country seeks to upskill its population.

But a lawmaker thinks the hours spent learning a foreign language is “useless” given improvements in translation devices, and wants to cut it from the core curriculum.

“Students spend 10 percent of their time in school learning English, but it’s only useful for a minority,” said Xu Jin, a member of political group the Jiusan Society, who wants more time dedicated to subjects including Chinese and mathematics.

Online, many criticised the idea as narrow-minded populism.

– Cheaper chops –

The government should pay half the cost of pig breeding, according to Liu Yonghao, founder of agribusiness giant New Hope Group and a member of the advisory body.

African swine fever has battered the country’s hog population in recent years.

Half of the world’s pork is eaten in China and prices soared last year after nearly 100 million animals were culled.

– Vaccine passport –

Travelling to China requires a battery of coronavirus tests and weeks in quarantine.

A prominent lawyer and member of the advisory body Zhu Zhengfu has proposed a globally recognised vaccine passport to address these pain points.

Zhu told the Global Times that international arrivals could be exempt from quarantine requirements if they have a negative nucleic acid test and a vaccine passport.

People within China who get the jab could also travel freely without getting a painful nasal swab every time they leave their city, Zhu said. © Agence France-Presse

Pinoy pride! House adopts resolutions honoring 2 Fil-Ams in Biden admin

By Billy Begas

The House of Representatives on Monday adopted two resolutions congratulating two Filipino-Americans who were appointed by US President Joe Biden.

House Resolution 1513 congratulates Camille Calimlim Touton who was appointed as Deputy Commissioner of US Bureau of Reclamation in January 21, 2021.

“Touton’s appointment is historic as she became the first Filipino-American to serve in the agency’s leadership role,” the resolution authored by Pangasinan Rep. Christopher de Venecia read.

Touton is the daughter of Carl and Marlene Calimlim from Barangay Tebeng, Dagupan City.

Meanwhile, House Resolution 1613 congratulates Gloria Diño Steele who was appointed as acting administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID is the leading agency of the US government implementing international development programs and disaster assistance.

Steele has received three US Presidential awards: one Presidential Meritorious Executive ward in 2007 and two Presidential Distinguished Executive Awards in 2008 and 2018. She also received the Order of Sikatuna Award form the Philippine President in 2015.

“For her achievements as an exemplary Filipino-American in the USAID, who envisioned a genuine commitment to help others live a better life, it is but fitting to commend and give honor to Ms. Gloria Diño Steele for representing the whole Filipino nation in the pursuit of a better Philippines and a peaceful world,” the resolution read.

The resolutions were approved during the celebration of Women’s Day at the House.

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