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COVID-19 WATCH

Russia military says virus vaccine is tested and safe

Agence France-Presse

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The Russian defense ministry said on Wednesday it had developed a “safe” coronavirus vaccine following clinical trials on a group of volunteers.

The ministry said 18 people had participated in the research and were discharged without “serious adverse events, health complaints, complications or side effects”.

The results of the trials “allow us to speak with confidence about the safety and good tolerability of the vaccine”, it said in a statement.

The defense ministry did not say whether the vaccine was in fact effective but a doctor working on the trials said the volunteers were now protected against the coronavirus.

“Their immunity is working well, antibodies are being created, they are protected against the coronavirus,” researcher Svetlana Volchikhina said in a video released by the defense ministry.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during the height of the epidemic in Russia in late May that military researchers were developing a vaccine with scientists at the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow.

The volunteers were isolated in the Burdenko military hospital in Moscow on June 18 when the trial vaccine was administered and underwent daily check-ups.

The defense ministry reported that “for 28 days after vaccination, the vital signs of the volunteers remained within normal limits”.

“We now know that we are 100 percent protected,” Yury, a member of the army who participated in the tests, said on leaving the hospital.

A second group of participants who were vaccinated on June 23 are currently in isolation in hospital under medical supervision.

The defense ministry has said it expects clinical trials to be fully completed by the end of July.

Russia has recorded the fourth highest number of coronavirus infections in the world with 746,369 cases and nearly 12,000 deaths, health officials said on Wednesday.

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DOH supports decision to retain one-meter distance in PUVs

Gabbie Parlade

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The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday backed the announcement of retaining the one-meter distance requirement imposed in public transportation as this would provide more protection for commuters and drivers.

This came after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected the proposal of the transport sector to reduce the distance by 0.75 meters.

“We comply with the minimum health standards pero hindi pwedeng paisa-isa kailangan magkakasma lahat yan pati yung paghuhugas ng kamay,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a televised briefing.

Citing studies, Vergeire explained that physical distancing combined with other health standards such as proper handwashing and the wearing of masks and face shields increases the chances of protection by up to 99 percent.

Initially, the DOH only told the public to be ‘extra vigilant’ in areas where the one-meter distancing may not be practiced.

They likewise urged the public to continue choosing travel options where the minimum distance can be practiced.

On the other hand, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said they will ‘aggressively comply’ to the one-meter distance stating that further guidelines on its implementation will soon be released.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), the one-meter distance is still the minimum standard recommended for countries to comply in order to avoid transmission among the public.

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Worldwide coronavirus cases top 30M

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PARIS, France (AFP) — The number of coronavirus cases registered worldwide topped 30 million on Thursday, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.

The grim landmark came as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of “alarming rates of transmission” of Covid-19 across Europe.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the WHO, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

The coronavirus death toll is now at 943,086 since it surfaced in China late last year and the number of cases has ballooned to 30,000,062, according to figures available at 19:45 GMT.

The United States has the highest national figures with 6,650,570 cases and 197,364 deaths, followed by India at 5,118,253 infections and 83,198 fatalities and Brazil with 4,419,083 cases and 134,106 deaths.

The rhythm of the pandemic seems to have stabilised globally since the middle of July with a million new cases surfacing every four days.

It took 94 days to hit a million infections and then another 86 days for the number of cases to cross 10 million on 28 June.

The number of infections has tripled since then.

Asia has registered the most new cases in the past week with 742,286 infections, of which more than 80 percent are in India.

Latin America and the Caribbean are next at 493,120, followed by Europe (327.524), Canada and the US (273,339), the Middle East (111,986), Africa (52,584) and Oceania (548).

Latin America has 8,484,443 infections in all and 316,827 deaths, followed by Asia (6,861,965 cases and 120,334 deaths).

Canada and the US have nearly 6.8 million cases and 206,602 deaths, Europe has 4,700,387 infections and 223,849 deaths and the Middle East has 1,750,232 cases and 41,254 deaths.

Africa has recorded 1,381,036 cases and 33,324 deaths followed by Oceania at 30,890 infections and 896 deaths.

India recorded the most number of new infections in the past week at 650,231, followed by Canada and the United States at 267,995, Brazil (221,194), Argentina (76,719) and Spain (70,981).

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Phl gets 1M masks from Chinese firm

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THE country’s war against the coronavirus pandemic gets a big shot in the arm after the government received one million masks from Chinese firm Tasan Health and Medical Tech. Shown during the turnover ceremony are (from left) Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go, PHLPost chairman Norman Fulgencio, who represented Tasan; Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo of the Presidential Management Staff and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF TASAN

The Philippine government has received a donation of one million masks from Tasan Health and Medical Tech, a Chinese firm that manufactures 4.5 million masks daily.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go received the first set of donations on behalf of the government from PHLPost chairman Norman Fulgencio who represented Tasan.

The masks will be used in the country’s fight against the coronavirus disease.

On hand to witness the turnover on Thursday at the Rizal Park Hotel were Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation president Alfredo Lim, Rizal Park Hotel chairman Simon Lee-Paz, Philippine National Construction Corporation chairman Herculano “Joji” Co, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chief Greco Belgica, Bureau of Customs deputy commissioner for assessment and operations Edward James Dy Buco.

Tasan’s production headquarters is located at the Shanghai Baoshan Industrial Park in China.

The products produced by Tasan, which include category 1 and 2 medical devices, sanitary products, and masks, have been certified in over 40 countries in Asia and Europe.

“And since the Philippines is the neighbor of China, we hope to create the business with it,” said Sheng WanCong, CEO of Zhejiang Tasan Flow Tech Co., Ltd.

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‘Superspreader’ wedding claims 5, infects 177

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The wedding ceremony at a church was followed by a reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, Maine. PHOTO: AFP

MILLINOCKET (AFP) — A wedding in rural Maine became a coronavirus “superspreader” event that left seven people dead and 177 infected, renewing fear of the disease in the northeastern US state that had hoped the worst of the pandemic was behind it.

The nuptials in early August were attended by 65 people, breaking the official limit of 50 allowed at a gathering.

A ceremony at a church was followed by a reception at the Big Moose Inn — both venues near the picturesque town of Millinocket, whose population numbers just 4,000.

Ten days later, two dozen people associated with the wedding had tested positive for Covid-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Maine opened an investigation.

The center’s local director Nirav Shah on Thursday gave the latest toll for the event, adding that none of the seven people who died had actually attended the wedding.

Contact-tracers linked the wedding to several virus hotspots across the state — including more than 80 cases in a prison 230 miles (370 kilometers) away, where one of the guards had attended the ceremony.

Another 10 probable cases were found in a Baptist church in the same area, while 39 infections — and six of the deaths — were at a nursing home 100 miles from Millinocket.

For the community and wider region, which had relaxed social-distancing rules introduced earlier in the crisis, the news was a brutal wake-up call.

“When we heard of the outbreak… everyone really hunkered down,” said Cody McEwen, head of the town council.

“As soon as the outbreak happened, we completely closed the town again.”

Some of the residents were clearly angry at the event’s organizers — starting with the tavern, whose license was temporarily suspended.

“I don’t think they should have had the wedding. I think it should have been limited like they were supposed to,” said Nina Obrikis, a member of the Baptist church where the ceremony was held.

“We can’t go nowhere or do nothing,” she said.

Maine Governor Janet Mills on Thursday issued a warning to the 1.3 million residents of the state.

Such flare-ups “threaten to undo the gains we have made at the drop of a hat,” she said.

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COVID pushes millions to poverty

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PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF UN As COVID-19 pushes millions to poverty, this child manages to smile despite the hardships he is facing.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has pushed an additional 150 million children into multidimensional poverty — deprived of education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water — a new United Nations (UN) study has found.

Globally, the number of children living in poverty soared to nearly 1.2 billion — a 15 percent increase since the pandemic hit earlier this year, according to a technical note on impact of COVID-19 on child poverty, issued by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the NGO Save the Children.

Although the analysis paints a dire picture already, UNICEF warns the situation will likely worsen in the months to come.

“COVID-19 and the lockdown measures imposed to prevent its spread have pushed millions of children deeper into poverty,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director.

“Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end.”

The study — based on data on access to education, health care, housing, nutrition, sanitation and water from more than 70 countries — also finds that around 45 percent of children were “severely deprived” of at least one of the critical needs in the countries analyzed before the pandemic.

It notes that child poverty is much more than a monetary value, and while measures of monetary poverty such as household income are important, they provide only a partial view of the plight of children living in poverty.

To understand the full extent of child poverty, all potential, multidimensional deprivations must be analyzed directly, the study adds, highlighting the need for social protection, inclusive fiscal policies, investments in social services, and employment and labor market interventions to support families and preventing further devastation.

“This pandemic has already caused the biggest global education emergency in history, and the increase in poverty will make it very hard for the most vulnerable children and their families to make up for the loss,” said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children.

“Children who lose out on education are more likely to be forced into child labor or early marriage and be trapped in a cycle of poverty for years to come. We cannot afford to let a whole generation of children become victims of this pandemic. National governments and the international community must step up to soften the blow.”

The study also finds that not only are more children experiencing poverty than before, the poorest children are getting poorer as well. Some children may suffer one or more deprivations and others experience none at all, therefore the average number of deprivations suffered per child can be used to assess how poor children are.

Before the pandemic, the average number of severe deprivations per child was around 0.7. It is now estimated to have increased by 15 percent to around 0.85, it notes.

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Complete lifting of lockdown may lead to surge, DoH warns

Gabbie Parlade

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The Department of Health (DoH) on Friday said that the complete lifting of lockdown should be approached with caution as it endangers losing the progress previously earned.

Their pronouncement came after a group of medical experts urged for this initiative stating that the country’s economic sector has been badly affected.

In a statement, the DoH said that a possible surge of cases may occur which in turn will again affect the national health system capacity.

“Slowly but surely. If we hurry, we run the risk of losing what progress we have made, endangering the lives of people and overburdening the health care system,” they said.

“If these things happen, we will again be put into tighter lockdowns and go through the process again,” DoH added.

The health department reiterated that it is important to pursue policies which consider not only the livelihood of others but more importantly the health and safety of the majority.

On Thursday, the group of the Concerned Doctors and Citizens Ph said one of their eyed proposals is to utilize hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis treatment against COVID-19.

They claimed that if administered in the right dosage it may also help in the recovery of low risk and high risk patients.

However, the DoH said that based on the findings by the Food and Drug Administration — the lead agency in drug regulation — hydroxychloroquine has issues in its safety due to adverse effects to the organs in the body.

It includes serious heart issues, blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, and even liver problems.

They also said that in contrast to what the groups of doctors said, hydroxychloroquine combined with any antiviral agent or with azithromycin is not recommended.

This is mostly relevant among COVID-19 patients who are on probable and confirmed cases, in the mild stages or as a preventive medication.

“Let’s stick to what has been proven to be effective. Our minimum health standards such as handwashing, wearing of masks, and physical distancing,” the DoH said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the total COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has reached over 276,000 as the country ranks at the 21st spot worldwide surpassing Germany, Indonesia and China.

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Ex-Health chief gives gov’t failing grade

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Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Friday gave the government a failing mark for its COVID-19 response stating that improvements could still be made after months of being in lockdown.

“I know that they are doing everything they can. But what I mean is they need to hasten and expand more of what should be done,” she said in an interview with DZMM.

She said that although progress has previously been earned in the past weeks, it was still not enough to lengthen the reduction of cases which meant that changes in the system should be identified.

It includes policies that should be adaptable to all social classes especially in the poor sectors.

“Many of the policies that we implement are only for those that can follow it. For those in the poor sectors, it is impossible for them to follow these rules for example, the wearing of masks. They don’t have money to buy food then more so in using it to buy masks,” she said.

Recently, the Department of Trade and Industries (DTI) said that they are eyeing to produce 20 million reusable and washable face masks which will be distributed for free among the public within one or two months as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Among those prioritized include the ‘poorest of the poor’ or families that are part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary.

On the other hand, Cabral, along with other medical experts such as the former health secretary Dr. Manuel Dayrit said that she is also in favor of reducing the physical distance within public transportation amid calls of other medical groups not to implement it.

She said that as long as passengers will wear their masks and face shields correctly then transmission of the virus may be avoided.

“For us I think there’s no difference in the one meter with the 0.75 meters. If you turn your head or move your butt slightly in the jeep, you would’ve already attained that 0.75 meters,” she said.

Cabral added it is also important for the transport sectors to regularly disinfect the premises to reduce infection even with a number of passengers riding each day.

On Thursday, the national government has initially suspended the implementation of the reduced physical distancing and will in the meantime remain at a one-meter distance as President Duterte finalizes his decision over the recommendations of various sectors.

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Batangas hospital gets ultrasound machine

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Sen. CHRISTOPHER Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SBG

The Batangas provincial hospital on Wednesday received an ultrasound machine donated by Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. through the efforts of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

In his speech, Go thanked all frontliners for their service during the pandemic.

“We are in the middle of this global health crisis and we express our sincerest gratitude to you, our valuable health professionals, for tending to the sick and for risking your lives in the process,” Go said.

“Despite the risks that accompany your profession, you continue to fight for your fellowmen especially the poor. Because of this, you have the country’s gratitude,” he added.

The new ultrasound machine, according to Go, will help the hospital in diagnosing and treating its patients.

Go also expressed his gratitude to the private donor for its generosity and for trusting him and his office to facilitate distribution and turnover to hospitals that need help the most.

“I would like to thank Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. for its donation and continued help for the country,” he said.

Previously, Go’s office facilitated the turnover of another ultrasound machine, also donated by PSFI, and 200 food packs to frontliners and Malasakit Center staff of the JR Borja General Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City,.

Meanwhile, Go urged the public to remain vigilant against the coronavirus.

He assured that he will continue to support hospitals and health facilities to improve their services.

“As your senator, I promised to give my all to support all of you and the hospital. We will continue to help the hospital and the medical frontliners and staffers in their daily fights against COVID-19,” he declared.

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P2,000 doleouts for E. Samar

Elmer Recuerdo

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BORONGAN CITY — Some 30,000 households in Eastern Samar will each receive a P2,000 financial aid given to those who were not included in any social amelioration program of the national government during this pandemic.

The provincial government has already started the distribution of the cash grant under its Provincial Emergency Assistance Program to the estimated 33,000 household-beneficiaries from 594 barangays in the entire province.

Gov. Ben Evardone has allocated cash aid amounting to at least P65-million for the program whose beneficiaries were identified by the Provincial Social Welfare Development Office.

As of yesterday, a total of 13,002 households from the municipalities of Mercedes, Oras, Hernani, Giporlos, Quinapondan, Sulat and Borongan City have already received the cash aid amounting to P25,928,500.

“This is a big help to our family especially to me because there are times when I can no longer buy my maintenance medicines,” said Caridad Salvador, a resident of Brgy. Balud in Borongan.

Under the Provincial Emergency Assistance Program, members of 4Ps, Social Amelioration Program beneficiaries, and TUPAD beneficiaries are no longer eligible to receive financial aid from the provincial government.

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