The House of Representatives remains safe even after 98 individuals tested positive during its first-ever mass testing for COVID-19.
House Secretary-General Mark Llando Mendoza said the mass testing initiated by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco gave the legislative chamber a true picture of the COVID-19 situation in the legislative chamber, allowing it to determine the courses of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its premises.
“Rest assured, as instructed by Speaker Velasco, the safety of all members and employees of the House is our number one priority,” Mendoza said during the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum.
Mendoza also dismissed the idea that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the House following the result of the mass testing conducted from Nov. 10 to 20, saying those who tested positive contracted the virus from their respective communities.
“We did the mass testing to find out immediately whose infected, positive with the virus. But those who are tested positive are community transmission,” Mendoza said.
He added: “Good thing we are able to identify immediately the source because it appears that the virus comes from here. That is not true. It’s not true that the transmission originates here, from the House.”
Strict health protocols
Meanwhile, the OCTA Research Team on Tuesday urged local government units to strictly implement COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming holiday celebrations to prevent the expected surge of new coronavirus infections in the country.
OCTA earlier estimated that the total COVID-19 cases in the Philippines may reach up to half a million by the end of the year as the trend of new cases continues to show no signs of slowing down.
“Chances are high due to the reopening of the economy, people going out of their houses, and the deteriorating compliance with the health standards,” UP professor Ranjit Rye said in a Laging Handa briefing.
Rye, however, said that COVID-19 cases could surge past 500,000 if minimum health standards would not be properly implemented come the holidays.
“There could be a surge if we neglect, do not comply with the minimum health requirements, and if the private sector do not enforce these in workplaces or establishments,” he said.
“Once the local government falls short of implementing these health standards surely, the country’s COVID-19 cases will soar past 500,000,” he also said.
Minimum public health standards
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, along with Asec. Elmer Punzalan, Metro Manila Center for Health Development OIC - Director Dr. Corazon Flores, and Celebrity Chef Margarita Fores visited on Wednesday Farmers Market in Cubao, Quezon City to check the adherence to minimum public health standards.
This is the first stop of the Health Secretary’s visits to popular areas and establishments to deter the potential spike in COVID-19 cases over the holiday season through proactive prevention.
Duque himself went around the market distributing BIDA hygiene kits, and engaged with stall owners, vendors, and shoppers. He emphasized the importance of safe food handling to ensure safety from food and water-borne illnesses and gave sanitation tips when handling produce and meat products. The Secretary further reminded them on the #BIDASolusyon strategies and demonstrated the proper conduct of MPHS such as proper physical distancing, the correct use of face masks and face shields, and correct hand washing technique.
“Our stall vendors are stewards of MPHS in their own stalls. As frontliners, they must not only ensure the cleanliness and safety of their products, but of their suking customers, as well,” the Health Chief noted.
The DOH, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation and Department of Public Works and Highways presented to the public the general plans for implementing active transport in the coming year 2021.
The plans are pursuant to the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2020-0001, Guidelines on the Proper Use and Promotion of Active Transport During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic, jointly signed by the aforementioned agencies.
During the DOH Media Forum on December 2, Secretary Duque expressed the DOH’s commitment to continuously promote active lifestyle in schools, workplaces, and communities. He stated that in order to create the culture and sustain the interventions being done, it is critical that the public are knowledgeable, motivated, and capacitated to practice a healthy lifestyle, starting with active transport.
The Health Chief also emphasized that active transport could help prevent transmission of COVID-19. “With active transport, physical distancing is better carried out by the individual. They no longer have to line up and ride the public transportation vehicles with other passengers. The risk for COVID-19 transmission is also less in open air,” said Duque.
When asked about the Bayanihan 2 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which provides funding for active transport, DPHW Spokesperson Anna Mae Lamentillo said that they are expecting over Php 1 Billion budget allocation for bicycle lane development projects in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.
“As early as now, we are incorporating bicycle lane design considerations in some of the DPHW’s ongoing big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the Boracay Circumferential Road, Laguna Lake Highway, and other key locations in the country,” added Lamentillo.
DOTr Assistant Secretary Lawyer Steve Pastor meanwhile, announced that a bike sharing program will be implemented by the DOTr in 2021, with a total of 702 bicycle units accessible in 28 stations within Metro Manila.
For his part, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya committed to handhold Local Government Units in their implementation of active transport activities and provide them with the necessary tools and assistance including a template ordinance and technical capacity.
In addition, the DILG also committed to set-up and facilitate a mechanism for functional coordination between LGUs and the JAO agencies. “We want the LGUs to more easily connect with DOTr, DPWH, and DOH to ensure that concerns can be properly addressed, and to ensure that bicycle lane network projects are seamless and standard across LGUs,” said Malaya.
To support the promotion of related activities in LGUs, the DOH has developed the Health Promotion Playbook for Active Transport. The Playbook consists of implementation plans and ready-to-use tools which LGUs can readily implement at the community level. The Playbook for Active Transport may be accessed at the following link: bit.ly/PlaybookActiveTransport.