The surge of the new COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila has prompted the leadership of the House of Representatives to suspend its sessions up to Jan. 24.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Tuesday the session that resumed on Monday had to be suspended again because of the reported infection of tens of members of the staff and officials of the chamber.
“We have decided to suspend the plenary sessions for the rest of the week because of the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases in almost every corner of the metropolis, and the House of Representatives is no exception,” Velasco said in a statement.
“We arrived at such decision to control the spread of the fast-moving coronavirus that has also affected our members and staff,” he added.
Since the start of the year, the House chief said more than 70 House members and employees had contracted the virus and many others were undergoing quarantine or self-isolation after exhibiting symptoms or having close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19.
“Despite this, we continue to fulfill our constitutional duty of enacting laws that promote the interests and welfare of our people, while taking restrictive yet necessary measures to create a safe environment for House members and employees,” Velasco said.
Some 540 areas across the country have been placed under granular lockdown as the country continues to grapple with a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 cases, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said Monday night.
Año, meanwhile, reported that personnel of the DILG and its attached agencies, including him, were not spared from the surge in infections.
As of Monday, Año said the Philippine National Police had the greatest number of COVID-19 active infections with 4,015, followed by the Bureau of Fire Protection with 471 and the DILG central and regional offices with 98 cases.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology recorded 91 cases, followed by the National Police Commission with 60; Philippine Public Safety College, 13; Philippine Commission on Women, 13; Local Government Academy, 10, National Youth Commission, four; and National Commission for Muslim Filipinos, one.
Meanwhile, four governors and 21 mayors have so far contracted COVID-19.
300 DOH employees positive
At least 300 Department of Health employees have tested positive for COVID-19 while almost 400 are undergoing quarantine, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire revealed on Tuesday.
“Many have been infected and a lot are undergoing quarantine. That’s why our workforce is somewhat low at this time, but we are still doing and continuing work,” she said in a radio interview.
Vergeire said DOH operations were not really affected as each unit had a skeleton workforce.
Meanwhile, the Health official said many of the agency’s personnel were starting to return to work due to the new policy shortening the isolation and quarantine period for fully vaccinated healthcare workers infected with or exposed to COVID-19.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had said the shortened isolation for medical frontliners was discretionary after several sectors expressed opposition to it.
The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered all its office in Quezon City closed until Jan. 28 due to reports from its Safety and Health Committee showing that an alarming increase in the number of COVID-19 infected employees, especially at the Public Assistance Bureau–Clearance Unit.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires ordered the closure of all offices of the Ombudsman-Mindanao in Davao City also until Jan. 28.
“For strict implementation of isolation and quarantine protocols order, and to arrest the transmission of infection among employees in the office, no OMB personnel will be allowed inside the office premises during the period that it is closed unless prior authorization has been secured from the Ombudsman, who in turn will inform Assistant Ombudsman Joselito Fangon for coordination with the guards,” he directed.
“All OMB personnel holding office in Quezon City shall continue to work from home permissible under the civil service rules,” he said.
250 from CAAP
At least 250 personnel of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines have tested positive for the coronavirus disease.
CAAP chief information officer Eric Apolonio said the agency conducted the COVID-19 testing from Jan. 4 to 14 at the Central Office. As a result, 250 employees found positive which caused a cut down in manpower especially in the air traffic control rooms.
“CAAP has decided to reduce the hourly arrival at the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) from 18 to 16 flights,” said Apolonio.
He said the agency put up a “bubble” space that would safely house the non-affected air traffic controllers to ensure that its technical personnel are protected from the virus.
“Through this bubble and the continued strict compliance to minimum health standards, the shortage in technical personnel has been under control,” said Apolonio.
“With this measure, alongside the continued alternating schedules of its technical and non-technical personnel, CAAP is hoping to ensure that its services, both in the ground and on air, will remain 100% unhampered,” he added.
Meanwhile, CAAP has released Memorandum Circular 02-2022 limiting the access of public transportation facilities to vaccinated individuals.
Apolonio said the guidelines in the CAAP Memorandum Circular implementing the “No Vaccination, No Entry Policy,” will be applied to all individuals entering CAAP-operated facilities and to domestic passengers traveling to and from the National Capital Region via any domestic or foreign air operator.
The memorandum circular will take effect while Metro Manila is under COVID-19 alert level 3 or higher, as may be determined by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases.
CAAP believes that the DOTr’s “No Vaccination, No Ride” policy will reinforce the importance of ensuring that public spaces such as airport terminals and aircraft remain as safe spaces for everyone that utilizes them,” said CAAP Director General Captain Jim Sydiongco.