Manila turns ships, hotels into isolation centers

A fireman sprays disinfectant from the back of a firetruck to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 during a localized quarantine in Manila. (AP)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Manila turns ships, hotels into isolation centers

  • Duterte unveils record $4bn aid package as number of COVID-19 cases passes 2,000

MANILA: The Philippines on Tuesday started earmarking hotels, ships, gyms, and convention centers for use as quarantine areas as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases swept past the 2,000 mark.

The move coincided with an announcement by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to allocate 200 billion pesos ($4 billion) toward helping low-income households severely affected by the health crisis.
“They are the ones in the informal sector and those who live day-to-day on subsistence wages or ‘no-work, no-pay’ arrangements,” he said.
On Tuesday the Philippines recorded 538 new COVID-19 infections – the highest single-day increase since the start of the outbreak — taking the total number of cases in the country to 2,084, with 88 deaths and 49 recovered patients.
Cabinet secretary and spokesman for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Karlo Nograles said the country’s health, transportation, and defense departments would be working together to ensure delivery of personal protective equipment for “the front-liners on the ground” fighting the spread of COVID-19.
He added that authorities had been asked to identify suitable buildings and facilities that could be used as quarantine or isolation centers.
Following the arrival of more COVID-19 test kits from abroad, Duterte’s government announced extra measures to tackle the pandemic in anticipation of a further surge in the number of infection cases.
Nograles said the Department of Transportation had been tasked with identifying maritime vessels that could serve as floating quarantine centers, while the Department of Tourism had been asked to draw up a list of hotels and accommodation establishments that could also be made available for patient care.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways, in cooperation with private entities, will convert the Philippine International Convention Center, World Trade Center, and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex into isolation facilities.
Local government units (LGUs) will be in charge of furbishing provincial, city, municipal, and barangay quarantine facilities.

FASTFACT

Luzon island, the country’s largest and most populous island, has been under lockdown since March 17 and will remain so until at least April 12.

The LGUs have also been ordered to help in the provision of basic necessities and local transport for residents, and identify individuals to carry out intensive contact tracing, assessments and disinfection operations in their respective localities.
Luzon island, the country’s largest and most populous island, has been under lockdown since March 17 and will remain so until at least April 12.
In an address to the nation on Monday, Duterte announced that the government was undertaking several key measures to overcome and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“We have allotted 200 billion pesos for low-income households who are severely affected by the current crisis,” he said, adding that it was the largest aid package in the Philippines’ history to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to the quarantine measures.
He also gave reassurances over supplies of food and other essential goods while imposing a price freeze on commodities.
“We are marshaling and deploying the resources of government to provide our frontline health workers with everything they require so they can save as many lives as possible.
“We are now procuring medical supplies, devices and personal protective equipment. About 1 million medical protective items are being acquired right now, with the government and the private sector working together to purchase or produce the necessary quantities,” Duterte added. The country’s capacity to conduct broader tests has also been ramped up to help give a more accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.


Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

Updated 29 May 2020

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

  • Intelligence, immigration officials investigating illegal facilities that catered mostly to foreigners

MANILA: The Philippines has intensified its crackdown on uncertified medical facilities offering treatment to people, particularly foreigners, with COVID-19 symptoms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to help the Philippine National Police (PNP) track down foreign nationals behind the illegal clinics.
“It seems that clandestine medical clinics catering mostly to foreign nationals have sprouted and have been operating without proper authority,” Guevarra told reporters.
He said the facilities could have compromised the health of those who had undergone treatment.
“I’ll therefore ask the NBI and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them, and if warranted, to file the appropriate charges against them,” he added.
Guevarra issued the order following a raid on Tuesday on an illegal clinic catering to Chinese patients in Makati City. Arrested in the operation were Chinese nationals Dr. David Lai, 49, and Liao Bruce, 41.
The clinic was reportedly operating without a permit, while the arrested did not have a license to practice medicine in the country.
Seized from the site were swab sticks, vials, syringes and boxes of medicine with Chinese labels — believed to be unregistered with the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, law enforcers also swooped on a makeshift hospital for Chinese patients in the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga province.
The raid came after police received information that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” in a Fontana villa.
Arrested during the raid were Chinese nationals Liu Wei, who reportedly supervised the facility, and Hu Shiling, allegedly a pharmacist. Both were released on the same day without charge.
Immigration officials on Thursday said the duo had been placed on their watch list to prevent them from leaving the country while an investigation is underway.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said intelligence operatives will trace four of the patients, and are looking into the case of the Chinese nationals arrested in Makati.
“I’ve instructed our intelligence division to investigate if these alleged Chinese doctors are legally staying in the country,” he said.
“Should we find they violated our immigration laws, they’ll be charged with deportation cases before our law and investigation division,” he added.
“Even if no criminal charges were filed against them, they can be charged for immigration law violations if we can establish that they violated the conditions of their stay in the country.”
If criminal charges are filed, however, the BI will only deport them after their cases have been resolved or they have served their sentences, if convicted.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the “immediate deportation and blacklisting” of the Chinese nationals because of their “blatant disregard of our laws.”
She added that while the Philippines is working hard to protect its people from the virus, “these criminals freely roam and pose a danger to public health.”