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COVID-19 WATCH

Cinema is not ‘comfort food,’ Scorsese warns COVID-hit festival

Agence France-Presse

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Martin Scorsese accepts Best Director for 'The Irishman' onstage during AARP The Magazine's 19th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel. (AFP)

Martin Scorsese warned that cinema is becoming “marginalized and devalued” as a “form of comfort food” during the coronavirus pandemic, as he addressed the Toronto film festival Tuesday.

Scorsese, no stranger to controversy after last year slamming popular superhero blockbusters as “not cinema”, spoke as movie theaters remain closed in major US cities including Los Angeles and New York.

Toronto, North America’s largest film festival, is taking place mainly online this year, along with a handful of drive-in and limited capacity indoor screenings.

In a short video introducing the event’s annual career achievement gala, Scorsese praised the festival for going ahead at all.

“The fact that film festivals are continuing to happen — improvising, adapting, making it all work somehow — is very moving to me,” said the Oscar-winning “Goodfellas” director.

“Because in the press and the popular culture, what’s happening… it’s becoming sadly common to see cinema marginalized and devalued, and in this situation categorized sort of as a form of comfort food.”

Millions around the world have spent the past few months locked at home due to the pandemic, with many binge-watching television and films from their living rooms.

In a blistering New York Times op-ed last November, Scorsese said movie theaters are the place “where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen,” and warned superhero movies were crowding auteurs off the big screen.

“To celebrate its very existence is all the more important and necessary… this remarkable art form has always been and always will be much more than a diversion,” added Scorsese in the video aired Tuesday.

“Cinema, film, movies, at its best, is a source of wonder and inspiration.”

‘Terrified’

British acting royalty Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet received career awards Tuesday at the virtual gala from Toronto, where both are promoting acclaimed new films that could land them their second Oscars.

From her home in England, Winslet said making 19th-century lesbian romance “Ammonite” was “a gift,” with her role as a pioneering paleontologist a test of her acting chops.

“I love playing parts that make me feel terrified and parts that make me feel incredible joy,” said Winslet, who won the best actress Oscar for 2008’s “The Reader” and has six other nods including for global phenomenon “Titanic.”

Her latest, “quiet, intimate” film, sees Winslet’s fossil-hunting heroine bond with a grieving mother played by Saoirse Ronan.

Hopkins, 82, whose heartwrenching dementia drama got a second airing in Toronto after rave reviews at January’s Sundance festival, joked: “I’m astonished that I’m still in work — still working at my age.”

He described “The Father,” which sees French playwright Florian Zeller make a directorial film debut adapting his own award-winning 2012 play, “deeply intense and deeply disturbing.”

The film charts Hopkins’ character’s battle with paranoia, memory loss, and contradictory realities, with the Welsh luminary bringing humor and pathos to a performance alongside Olivia Colman as his long-suffering daughter.

Hopkins won best actor at the 1992 Oscars for his unforgettable turn as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” and has since been nominated four more times.

Both Winslet and Hopkins devoted much of their acceptance speeches, projected into an empty Toronto movie theater, to thanking emergency workers.

Chloe Zhao, the director of early Oscar contender “Nomadland,” which won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival last weekend, was also recognized for her work.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sunday.

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COVID-19 WATCH

Avigan maker to seek virus treatment approval after trials

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The maker of anti-influenza drug Avigan said Wednesday it will apply for the medication to be approved for treating coronavirus patients after trials showed it can shorten recovery time.

In a statement, manufacturer Fujifilm Toyama Chemical said its phase III trial in Japan, which began in March, was now complete.

Of 156 individuals described as “analysis targets”, the median recovery time was 11.9 days in those receiving Avigan compared with 14.7 for patients given a placebo.

Recovery was defined in the trial as when the virus was no longer detectable in PCR tests, and when symptoms related to temperature, oxygen saturation, and chest imaging were improved.

The “randomized, placebo-controlled, single-blind comparative study” did not produce any new safety concerns, Fujifilm said.

The firm said it would now “conduct a detailed analysis of the data obtained in this trial, and will work to file Application for Partial Changes to include the additional indication in as early as October.”

The drug, whose generic name is favipiravir, was approved for use in Japan in 2014, but only in flu outbreaks that are not effectively addressed by existing medications.

It is not available on the market and can only be manufactured and distributed at the request of the Japanese government.

Favipiravir, which can be taken orally as a pill, works by blocking the ability of a virus to replicate inside a cell.

Avigan has been shown in animal studies to affect fetal development, meaning it is not given to pregnant women.

Japan has heavily backed the drug, asking Fujifilm to ramp up production for use at home and offering to supply it for free to dozens of countries that have put in requests.

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60 nations join Covax access plan

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A lab technician handles vials as part of filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate on September 11, 2020, in Anagni, Italy. AFP

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — More than 60 wealthy nations have joined a WHO-backed program to facilitate poor countries’ access to coronavirus vaccines, but the United States and China are not on the list published Monday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has in coordination with the global vaccine alliance group Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) created a mechanism aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of any future COVID-19 vaccines.

But the mechanism, known as Covax, has struggled to raise the funds needed to provide for the 92 low-income countries and other economies that quickly signed up.

WHO had encouraged richer nations to step up to the plate by the end of last week and when the deadline fell, 64 were onboard with another 38 expected to join in the “coming days,” the three organizations said in a joint statement.

Among those who have signed up are “the European Commission… on behalf of 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland,” it said.

The United States, which under President Donald Trump has relentlessly criticized the WHO’s handling of the pandemic and which is in the process of withdrawing from the organization, is not on the list.

And China, where the novel coronavirus first surfaced late last year, is also absent.

“The purpose of the Covax facility is to try to work with every country in the world,” Gavi chief Seth Berkley told a virtual briefing when asked about China’s absence from the list.

“I can assure you that we have had conversations and will continue to have conversations with all countries,” he said.

‘Not charity’
The aim is for Covax to lay its hands on two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines by the end of 2021.

The WHO has said some $38 billion is needed for its overall ACT-Accelerator program, which includes Covax, but also global collaboration towards developing and ensuring equitable access to tests and treatments for Covid-19, and strengthening health systems.

But so far it has received just $3.0 billion of that.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced optimism that so many countries — representing nearly two-thirds of the global population — had agreed to participate in the mechanism.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response,” he said in the statement, warning countries against scrambling to acquire vaccine stocks for their populations alone.

“Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery,” he said.

“This is not charity,” he told journalists.

“It’s in every country’s best interest. We sink or we swim together.”

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Gov’t eyeing more contact tracers — Magalong

Gabbie Parlade

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There is still a pressing need for the national government to recruit more contact tracers with the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continuing to rise, tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong said on Tuesday.

In a radio interview, he said that an ideal team of four people which include a health worker and a police investigator should be allotted to trace the close contacts of each COVID case.

However, due to the lack of staff some of the infected patients remain to have untraced contacts.

“Four is to one is the ideal, but because we are overwhelmed with cases sometimes others are not contact traced. There are places in Manila who are calling me that they’ve tested (positive) but not one of the local government tracers has yet called them,” he said.

Although the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has an ongoing recruitment and training allotted for thousands of contact tracers, he warned that it may not be enough.

This is why Magalong is calling for more volunteers to take part in the national tracing effort.

“The recruitment of the 50,000 contact tracers is a big deal but if you’ll ask me is it enough? It’s not, we will surely have a shortage,” stated the official.

“We need volunteers, cause-oriented groups who think they have the critical thinking ability, or members with an investigative mindset and who are not exactly looking for salaries. They can always volunteer,” he added.

At present, the country has 97,400 contact tracers which will be further increased to 150,000 with the government’s ongoing hiring for tracers.

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Aboitiz joins `Renewed Global Cooperation’ call

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The Aboitiz Group is the latest to join more than 1,000 CEO from 100 countries in signing the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Statement for Renewed Global Cooperation which urges further collaboration between the public and private sectors in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aboitiz Group president and chief executive officer (CEO) Sabin Aboitiz, a firm believer of ethical leadership and good governance in upholding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), said the UNGC is vital in implementing universal sustainability principles towards attaining the UN’s goal.

“We, the business peoples, recognize that peace, justice, and strong institutions are beneficial to the long-term viability of our organizations and are foundational for upholding the Ten Principles of the UNGC and achieving the SDG. Now is our opportunity to learn from our collective experiences to realign behind the mission of the UN and steer our world onto a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable path. We are in this together — and we are united in the business of a better world,” the statement endorsed by the global CEO and presented at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s 75th session stated.

It also expressed support for the objectives of SDG: 16: to promote peace, justice and strong institutions.

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Bataan Port increases quarantine capacity

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MARIVELES, Bataan — The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) has increased the capacity of its quarantine facility (QF) to cope with the increasing number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in its locality.

AFAB administrator Emmanuel Pineda disclosed that the QF was temporarily closed down to give way to improvements to accommodate more bed spaces.

The QF now has a 52-bed capacity in its Building 1 wherein 12 of the rooms are for women while 14 rooms are for men. Each room fits two beds, a table and chairs, sink, comfort room, and electric fan for proper ventilation.

Initially built for Freeport Area of Bataan workers and their residents, the said facility will now also cater to Mariveles residents where they will be attended by a doctor, four nurses and four nursing attendants.

Only patients who are asymptomatic with aged 18 to 59 will be accepted in the QF. Those with more serious or severe symptoms of the viral respiratory disease, patients with comorbidities, or patients with special medical needs are advised to be admitted in hospitals more capable of handling their needs.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has already provided the facility with toiletries for the patients who will occupy the QF while patients are required to bring their personal items like clothes for good for 14 days, masks, face shields, pillows, blankets, and kitchen utensils.

Other facilities Mariveles is utilizing are the Economic Housing Building of AFAB in Sitio Karagatan of Barangay Alas Asin, and the Llamas Elementary School and Mariveles National High School-Alasasin.

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DTI holds mobile apps Pitch Party

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Valenzuela City developed its own contact tracing application, ValTrace, where residents’ information will be registered and accessed via a quick response code as part of the city government’s measures against the coronavirus disease pandemic. PHILIPPINE NEWS AGENCY

Curated contact tracing applications will take center stage in an online Pitch Party streaming on 25 September 2020 at 2:00 in the afternoon via Zoom and Facebook Live.

The project is a joint endeavor of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Science and Technology (DoST), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), StartupIslandPH, The Company, local government unit of Dumaguete, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Visayas, the various Chambers in Region 7 and the Rotary.

DTI R7 Assistant Regional Director Maria Elena Arbon said that this webinar is the second of three online events under DTI’s Ready to Recover (R2R) banner.

The online Pitch Party, Arbon noted, brings together presenters of contact tracing applications to deliver a short and concise business pitch to describe their companies and their mobile applications in a manner easily understood by the general public, as well as capture the attention of the business community.

Contact tracing apps such as WeScan, QRCity, Clear Pass, CoScan, Radar, KeepSafe, OpenGov, TapTrace, TMDC, ZTrace, Safe Pass, among others, are expected to take part in the online event.

Arbon likewise expressed optimism the initiative will also spur the growth of startups and help the startup ecosystem in Central Visayas to thrive as it will be a way to inform businesses and educate the public on the technology options currently available.

“DTI is again encouraging businesses to adopt more effective and safer tech solutions for health monitoring to replace pen and paper,” she stated as she also pointed out the importance of community involvement to the program’s success.

Startup companies and other entities interested to take part in the webinar may register at https://www.facebook.com/DTI.Region7/posts/3110596892383164.

The public may also watch the event via the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/DTI.Region7/ https://www.facebook.com/DOST.Region7/

https://www.facebook.com/DICTgovph/

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Isko receives medical-grade masks from P&G

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P&G Philippines, represented by its president and general manager, Raffy Fajardo (left), turned over 100,000 medical-grade masks to Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso (middle) and Vice- Mayor Dr. Maria Sheilah “Honey” Lacuna-Pangan for the city’s front liners. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF P&G

As a way of showing its commitment to safeguarding the health of front liners, P&G Philippines recently donated 100,000 medical-grade masks to the City of Manila which were personally received by Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.

Since the declaration of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March, P&G has stepped up as a Force for Good in helping the nation in its fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Among the first companies to respond to the call of bayanihan, P&G immediately repurposed its manufacturing operations to locally produce and donate medical-grade masks by applying its expertise in non-woven feminine and baby care products.

As a follow through on its initial donation of 1 million masks, P&G has firmed up its manufacturing capacity, and has doubled their initial commitment and is now donating to more partner health institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and local government units including the City of Manila.

On top of the masks, the City of Manila also received 5,000 health and hygiene kits or “BIDA Home Kits” containing P&G’s trusted sanitation products such as Safeguard soap, Joy dishwashing liquid, Ariel detergent and Head & Shoulders shampoo through the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Embassy and the Department of Health (DoH).

Present during the turnover of donations were the US Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines, Ambassador Sung Kim, USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, DoH Center for Health Development Metro Manila Regional Director Corazon Flores, and P&G Philippines President and General Manager, Raffy Fajardo.

The donation of BIDA Home Kits is part of the DoH and P&G partnership for the mass-education campaign “BIDA Solusyon sa COVID-19,” which promotes awareness on the key hygiene and sanitation habits against COVID-19 that every Filipino can do to keep their families and homes safe. Together, DoH, USAID and P&G identified vulnerable families nationwide and are empowering them to fight COVID-19 with the help of BIDA Home Kits that contain half a month’s supply of sanitation and hygiene products.

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Corrections chief has coronavirus

Alvin Murcia

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Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag confirmed Monday that he tested positive for coronavirus.

The confirmation was made by Bantag two days after BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaglag disclosed that he contracted the virus following a swab test conducted last Tuesday.

Chaclag along with two personnel of the BuCor director general earlier tested positive for Covid-19, prompting the latter to undergo swab test.

The BuCor chief admitted that he experienced symptoms of the virus for two nights such as chills and high temperature.

Bantag said he took paracetamol and vitamin C and noticed that the symptoms were gone on the third night.

The BuCor chief also confirmed that his driver and close-in security also tested positive for the virus.

Previously, nine high profile inmates, including drug convict Jaybee Sebastian, who is one of the accused-witnesses in the illegal drug trade case filed against opposition Senator Leila de Lima, have died reportedly due to the virus.

The BuCor as of July has reported 350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates and prison officers with 21 deaths.

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Phl tops 290,000 infections

Gabbie Parlade

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The Philippines on Monday breached the 290,000-mark with 3,475 new cases of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DoH) reported.

Out of the total 290,190 cases, the active cases of infections have also reached over 54,000 where a majority at 86 percent are patients with mild symptoms.

Metro Manila remains to have the highest tally of newly-reported cases at 1,543 followed by some areas in the CALABARZON region and in Cebu.

On the other hand, the number of recoveries has reached 230,233 after another set of mass recoveries over the weekend have escalated the record.

The number of fatalities, meanwhile, is nearly reaching the 5,000 mark with 15 additional deaths identified mostly coming also from Metro Manila, Western and Eastern Visayas and CALABARZON.

However, the DoH said that out of the numbers tallied about nine out of the 129 licensed laboratories were still unable to submit their data as of 20 September.

Worldwide, the data Johns Hopkins University showed that the Philippines now ranks at the 21st spot of having the most record of coronavirus infections.

The United States still tops the list at 6.8 million followed by India with 5.4 million cases while the global tally of infected individuals is now at over 31 million.

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