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THE BODY SHOP’S COASTAL CLEAN-UP WITH PLANET CORA

March 28, 2020

Conscious of the social and environmental problems the society of today exposes its inhabitants, The Body Shop has been one of the pioneers of sustainability. With that, it constantly seeks for new projects in order to help the world we live in.  In the Philippines, as well as the rest of the world, piles of our mismanaged wastes wind up on our shores.  Plastics and other non-biodegradable wastes may be low-cost and convenient but they stay long in our environment and may kill marine animals as they mistaken plastics for food. Single-used plastics such as plastic straws, plastic bottles and plastic bags are big contributors to pollution.  In line with this, The Body Shop Philippines partnered with Planet CORA a non-profit organization dedicated in protecting the planet in gathering almost 200 volunteers for a Coastal Cleanup in Las Piñas, Parañaque Critical Habitat Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA). This cleanup helped in physically reducing wastes as well as creating awareness and inspiration for the volunteers to instill change in their lifestyles. A total of 2.29 tons of waste were collected in just a span of two hours wherein majority of the collected were plastic bottles.  The Ocean Cleanup with Planet CORA is just one of the many advocacies of The Body Shop Philippines.  ———— About The Body Shop​  The Body Shop was founded in 1976 by Dame Anita Roddick in Little Hampton, England. The beauty brand pioneered corporate activism and was built on a philosophy that business can be a force for good. With its brand expression, Beauty with Heart, the company continues to be focused on five core values: Against Animal Testing, Support Community Fair Trade, Activate Self Esteem, Defend Human Rights and Protect The Planet. All products are created using the finest ingredients sourced from the four corners of the globe, which are not tested on animals and are 100% vegetarian. The Body Shop has been in the Philippine market for eighteen years with over 55 strategically located stores nationwide.

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Chambers propose mass screening with RST to curb COVID-19 spread

March 27, 2020

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry today endorsed to President Rodrigo Duterte a resolution from its affiliate chambers in Mindanao urging the ramping up of mass screening of possible COVID-19 cases in the country through the adoption of the Rapid Serologic Test (RST) as a surveillance tool. In its letter to the president coursed through Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea dated today, PCCI President Amb. Benedicto V. Yujuico also requested the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant Emergency Use Authority to the application for registration of verifiable suppliers of RST kits, and to set up “PCR Sub-National Reference Laboratories” in all regions of Mindanao.  “We urgently need to check the health of our communities and this is only possible using mass testing in the field. Having statistics of sick patients in the hospital is just too late,” said Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, PCCI area vice president for Mindanao. “We need to know actual cases in the field even before they become symptomatic or no longer symptomatic (unknowingly healed) to make targeted decisions before they even get to hospitals,” she added. PCCI is advocating the immediate rollout of the mass screening program using RST by local government units in partnership with national agencies, Philippine Red Cross and other NGOs starting with all PUIs awaiting access to PCR testing, all PUMs, vulnerable persons within the vicinity of a cluster of Covid-19 outbreak, and among front liners in the hospital and in the field. Persons who test positive from RST mass screening should also be required to undergo priority confirmatory testing by PCR. The chambers are also requesting the Food and Drug Administration Philippines (FDA) to grant Emergency Use Authority to approve the applications for registration of verifiable suppliers of RST Kits that already underwent the registration process with their respective FDAs in their country of origin. Not the least, PCCI also supports the call of many LGUs and regional bodies to set up  sub-national reference labs in all regions of Mindanao in addition to the four already being set up in the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, the Baguio General Hospital & Medical Center in Benguet, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. The Western Visayas Medical Center and the Bicol Public Health Laboratory are also being prepared for testing. In addition to the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), five private hospitals are also being assessed by the DOH and the World Health Organization as possible extension laboratories.  These are the molecular biology laboratories of St. Luke’s Medical Center - Global City, Makati Medical Center, The Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center - Quezon City and Chinese General Hospital. Indonesian Experience A week ago, Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered the rollout of rapid tests for COVID-19 across the country in a bid to accelerate detection of the disease. Rapid tests are easier to perform than regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and can detect COVID-19 cases quicker. Since rapid tests like the RST only require blood serum as a sample, these can be conducted by most health laboratories across the country enabling mass testing in COVID-19 hit areas to be performed quickly. It is easier to implement than the regular tests like PCR, which must be performed in level two biosafety laboratories, since they involved the sampling of nasal fluids or larynx substances which contain the virus as main specimens. Since rapid tests are easier to perform, Indonesia expects more people to be tested and sent to hospitals if found positive. To anticipate a rise in confirmed cases, Jokowi called for hospitals to set up health protocols for handling those who had performed the test. PCR too slow to determine virus spread Although PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is a tried and tested method to confirm COVID-19 infection in PUIs and PUMs, it does not give a true picture of the spread of the infection in a community due to the length of time it takes to confirm a test, now worsened by the backlog at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) due to the sheer volume of samples, the shortage of testing kits to meet the demand, and the extended time to send samples to RITM due to the lockdown of the national transport network. RITM is the sole testing facility in the country at present since the four additional regional centers are not yet ready to conduct tests. Indirect Method “RST is an excellent tool to check the presence of antibodies naturally produced by the human body as a defense mechanism to fight the presence of a destructive foreign body, e.g. the SARS-CoV2 /COVID-19 virus,” said Roderico Bioco, PCCI-X Regional Governor. “It is an indirect method of detecting the presence of the virus (the infection), unlike the PCR test which detects the actual virus itself.” “Each has innate limitations, serve different functions, but should be used together to complement each other in combating the global pandemic,” Bioco noted. Bioco said needs a better surveillance tool that is affordable, reasonably accurate and reliable, easily deployable in the field with minimal technical skill (no need special laboratory with HVAC and negative room pressure, etc), and safer (no need to transport live virus samples). It is also important to note that our field operatives and front liners know that they have fair access to the testing themselves to boost their morale, he added. “Furthermore, we can map out (geo tag) the existence of the spread of the virus using GIS (geospatial information system) and updating the GIS database is faster using RST,” Biaco stressed. “This is critical in planning and executing decisions in the field. We need to analyze faster patterns and trends the virus spreading in the community to make proactive policies and timely decisions.” RST vs. PCR explained In the early stage of infection( first 5-6 days), a true positive person may be tested negative by RST (false negative) because his body may not yet have produced enough antibodies that can be detected by RST. RST is not the proper tool to monitor the ongoing infection, that is the role of PCR, he explained. On the other hand, science journals are saying that the infection starts in the lungs and the virus may not still be present in nasal tracts or sputum 1-5 days after exposure for the PCR test to detect possibly yielding a false negative also. PCR also cannot detect the virus if the person has already completely healed from the disease. How RST buys time The IgM and IgG antibodies that are specific to the COVID-19 virus may take around 5-6 days after exposure for the body to produce enough antibodies detectable by RST. At that point, the infected person may start showing symptoms. Most healthy persons are expected to show mild reaction to the virus and may even be asymptomatic, but his immune system already produces antibodies combating the virus. Upon successfully fighting the virus, the infected person gets rid of the virus in his system, but the antibodies may remain in his body for several days. In this event, PCR test can no longer determine the presence of the virus nor diagnose if the person went through the infection in the first place in the absence of prior testing. However, in this case, RST can determine with a high degree of accuracy a past infection of the person from COVID-19. “This is a critical function of RST not doable by PCR. RST is an excellent tool to diagnose the general health of the community, while PCR for the individual patient,” Bioco said. In the event of intercepting by RST a healthy person that went through the disease undetected, we have the opportunity to conduct contact retracing, isolate, contain and mitigate and stop the cluster from breaking out (that otherwise PCR screening alone cannot do). Reports also claim that most of the transmission of the virus is by asymptomatic persons. Thus, it is important to cast a wider net to catch the virus, and do it fast.   

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How South Korea tamed COVID-19

March 27, 2020

After one of the world’s largest initial outbreaks outside China, South Korea has managed to bring daily new cases into relative decline without imposing draconian nationwide lockdown measures. Comparing Italy to South Korea shows how dramatic the differences can be. On March 1, Italy had only 1,701 cases and 41 deaths, while South Korea had 3,736 cases and 21 deaths. Three weeks later, on March 22, Italy’s caseload had exploded to 59,138, with 5,476 deaths, while South Korea’s total caseload had merely doubled to 8,897, with 104 deaths. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/23/coronavirus-pandemic-south-korea-italy-mass-testing-covid19-will-keep-spreading/ The key to South Korea’s success has been speed and an early push toward mass testing, rigorous contact tracing, and mandatory quarantine for anyone near a carrier of the virus.  The country, with a population of 51 million, tests more than 20,000 people a day at more than 600 testing sites nationwide, while integrating apps that not only track individuals if they have tested positive, but also warn them if they might have been exposed to a known case. From a peak of 909 cases in February 29, South Korea has seen a decline of its COVID-19 cases since March 11 to as low as 74-76 daily. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/how-south-korea-flattened-its-coronavirus-curve-n1167376 South Korea flattened the curve for new cases by ramping up its testing capacity to the current 20,000 people a day at 633 sites,  including drive-thru centers and even phone booths. Those tested can receive their results in less than 24 hours, and so far over 327,000 of South Korea’s 51-million population have been tested since January 21st. "Acting fast was the most important decision South Korea made," said Hwang Seung-Sik, a professor at Seoul National University's Graduate School of Public Health. By early February, the first test had been approved. Active collaboration among central and regional government officials and medical staff took place before cases began piling up. Early testing meant early detection of infections where a relatively larger proportion of patients showed either no symptoms or very mild ones, according to Hwang. South Korean leaders have amped up efficiency for overwhelmed hospitals by digitally monitoring lower-risk patients under quarantine, as well as keeping close tabs on visiting travelers who are required to enter their symptoms into an app. Sites like Corona Map generate real-time updates about where current patients are located and inform proactive Koreans focused on protecting themselves. According to a survey conducted last month by Seoul National University's Graduate School of Public Health, 78.5 percent of respondents agreed that they would sacrifice the protection of their privacy rights to help prevent a national epidemic. Now, hand sanitizer bottles are placed in front of nearly every entrance and elevator for public use. And of the 1,000 people who took part in a study by Seoul National University, 97.6 percent responded that they at least sometimes wear a mask when they are outside, 63.6 percent of who said they always wear one. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 percent of COVID-19 cases can be categorized as mass infections. A call center in southwestern Seoul was at the center of a local outbreak this month that generated more than 156 infections. About 90 cases were traced to a Zumba class. South Korea has already started new testing on all arrivals from Europe, according to local news reports, preparing for a "second wave" of imported clusters. Even those who test negative are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.(with reports from foreignpolicy.com & NBCNews)

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Nast Health Sciences Division Statement: Scientific Research and Development as drivers to win the race against COVID19

March 27, 2020

The current CoViD19 problem caused by the SARS CoV2 virus has raised and continue to raise issues on how programs and strategies can better control and prevent the escalation of the problem. With the recent declarations of the World Health Organization that COVID 19 is already a global pandemic and the implementation of community quarantine and subsequently extended community quarantine initially involving the National Capital Region and eventually the whole of Luzon, we expect greater urgency for countries to implement programs and strategies to stem and arrest this epidemic.      Almost all of these countries, and the Philippines is no exception, have proposed novel and sometimes radical measures as possible solutions. Almost all of them, however, are not based on scientific studies but largely on expert opinion and what we think worked and did not work during the SARS problem in 2003 and the pandemic influenza global pandemic in 2009.     Being caught in the midst of this ongoing epidemic and the consequent rapid rush of research institutions, both in the private and the public sector to find the magic cure for this disease, whether it be a drug or a vaccine to prevent transmission and infection of the virus, the research community should galvanize and unify efforts to spearhead researches that will address current health issues brought about by the CoViD 19 problem.     Dealing with and confronting this problem will require a whole of government-led approach with involvement and engagement of the private sector and the general public. Networking and collaboration among and within these different groups will be the key.      Researches, in particular, will be critical in the fight against the CoViD 19 recognizing that this is a new disease with a potentially different behavior, progression and effect on the health of individuals, the community and the nation as compared to the other emerging pathogens     We, at the National Academy of Science and Technology, fully support the current research initiatives of the government and the Department of Science and Technology.      In the face of limited resources and paucity of knowledge concerning the virus and the disease it causes, researches are being developed and implemented in collaboration with various research groups both here and abroad to address various aspects of the CoViD19 problem. In the light of all these, we propose that the following researches be done or enhanced to identify and implement the most effective measures to address problem of CoViD 19 in the following areas:     1) In the area of epidemiology, modelling studies , which are mostly mathematical, may help us better understand how the epidemic will evolve.      Input of health data into these disease models, as the epidemic progresses, will be very important to provide government planners scientific projections on how this epidemic will progress. The data generated will be very helpful in forward planning by concerned government agencies to anticipate, prepare and dampen the effects of this epidemic on different aspects of national life, including the economy.     2) In the area of diagnostics, whereas current tests are focused on the detection of the virus in affected patients, tests determining the presence of antibodies mounted by the human hosts should also be developed.      These antibody-based assays will help determine the patients who were truly infected, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. It may catch the cases missed by the tests for detecting infection as these tests may have been done too early or too late in the disease.      The tests to detect antibodies will determine the true burden of disease and as well as provide added information on the infectiousness, transmission dynamics and progression of the disease. These tests may also be used for predicting chances for development of complications as well as mortality, especially if the antibodies are proven to be neutralizing antibodies.     3) In the area of therapy, the country should participate in clinical trials that would have already been initiated by other countries to help us better understand patient responses to this therapy and determine whether different genetic backgrounds, cultures and environment may affect patient response.      Moreover, participation in these multi-country studies can facilitate its availability in our country when the results become significant.     4) In the area of prevention and the development of vaccines, knowing more about the virus, its genetic makeup and how fast it mutates or changes will accelerate its development.      Characterizing the molecular and genetic structure as isolated from patients in the Philippines can be contributed to the international database that will serve as references for vaccine development. This will ensure that the vaccines developed can induce protection against all of the circulating SarsCoV2 viruses isolated from patients anywhere else in the world. 5) In the area of host factors, genetic biomarkers may be identified that may either predispose or make people less susceptible to the infection. They may also be used to determine risk for severity of disease and complications.     In all of these initiatives, sharing of information within and among scientists, researchers and institutions both here and abroad will help us build on each others’ strengths and accelerate the race for finding the solutions and the answers to many of our questions.     Ultimately, winning the battle would depend on how much and how good we understand our adversary- the Covid19 and the virus that causes it.      To many, the virus is like an unknown enemy that works silently easing its way among and through susceptible populations, evading detection and prevention. The experiences of many countries, whether good or bad, will serve as valuable learnings for all of us.      For one thing is certain, this epidemic will not be the only ones we will be confronting in the years to come. It has been established by scientists that in the area of zoonotic diseases that start from animal hosts before reaching humans, only half of viruses have been identified. Scientific research and development remain our most effective weapon to confront them and the SARS CoV2.

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14 PUIs in CDO tested negative for Covid-19

March 25, 2020

FOURTEEN persons quarantined at the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) here have tested negative of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the hospital’s chief said Monday. Dr. Jose Chan, NMMC medical center chief, said four of the patients have tested negative on Saturday (March 21), while the remaining 10 on Sunday (March 22). There are now 10 patients under investigation (PUIs) still on quarantine at the NMMC, he said, adding that most of them are doing well.      Most of the PUIs who have been cleared by the NMMC, he said, come from Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.      Chan said most of the patients who tested negative of Covid-19 had contracted the influenza virus. He said those patients have shown symptoms, the same if a person has contracted the coronavirus, like cough, colds, fever, and body pain.      The 14 PUIs, he said, were sent home after their health recovered even before their 14-day quarantine had ended.      “If the patients start to feel well after two weeks, we will discharge them, even if their test has not yet arrived,” Chan told reporters during the daily Covid-19 press briefing here.      Chan also announced that the 40 NMMC health workers who underwent the 14-day quarantine and who have tested negative of Covid-19 will be resuming their respective duties starting Tuesday (March 24).      As of Sunday (March 22), Northern Mindanao has 186 PUIs, 16 of whom are currently admitted at hospitals, 123 under quarantine, 10 have completed their 14-day quarantine, and 34 were discharged, according to the Department of Health's (DOH) Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit.      Persons under monitoring (PUMs) in the region have reached 2,698, the DOH-Region 10 data said.      Of the 186 PUIs, three have died--one of whom tested positive for Covid-19.      The other two fatalities were women who succumbed to severe acute respiratory illness (Sari). They died March 18 at the NMMC while still on quarantine.      Chan said those who died of Sari were aged 33 to 44 years old and had preexisting medical conditions such as shortness of breath, diabetes, hypertension, and heart problem. PUI death in Iligan      Meanwhile, in Iligan City, the operation of Adventist Medical Center in Iligan City said it has continued its operations despite the reported death of a PUI on Sunday evening.      A hospital source said the patient, who is from Lanao del Sur, was admitted at 3 p.m. on Sunday with breathing difficulty.      "The patient, who manifested flu-like symptoms, died around 9 p.m. without being tested for Covid-19. A swab sample was taken for testing. The cadaver is being sealed with the DOH bag," said the source, who did not want to be named as he was not authorized to speak with the media.      The cadaver will be released for burial following the Islamic traditions in compliance with the protocol of the Department of Health. The Inter-Agency Task Force Covid-19 in Iligan had yet to issue a statement about the patient. (PNA)

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In first virtual council meeting - RDC-X endorses 2021 regional budget

March 24, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – An estimated P272 billion in priority programs and projects for Fiscal Year 2021 were endorsed by the full council of the Regional Development Council of Northern Mindanao on 20 March 2020. The supported budgets include 115 catalytic projects (P140.415 billion), projects under the Convergence Areas for Peace and Development program (P48 billion), activities targeted for the Sustainable Development Goals (P76 billion), as well as statutory budgets for  Gender and  Development, Persons with Disability, and Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Adaptation (P57 billion) to realize the region’s goals and aspirations. Budget allocation for the infrastructure sector had the highest share with P164 billion (60% share) for seven regional line agencies (RLAs). The social sector had 32% with P87 billion for nine RLAs and nine state universities and colleges (SUCs). The economic sector proposed a budget of P15 billion (6%) for 12 RLAs; and the macro sector submitted P5.5 billion (2%) for 13 RLAs, including those in the security sector agencies. The body also approved the creation of the Special Regional Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals under the RDC-X. This committee will monitor the progress of programs aimed at contributing to the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. To support evidence-based decision making, four policy research studies covering poverty, education, and peace, security and safety were endorsed. The research studies will be undertaken by the region’s SUCs. These include the establishment of the Philippine Research Center for Bamboo under the Niche Center in the Region for Research and Development; the installation of a Regional TV Station to be housed in the Philippine Army - 4th Infantry Division Camp; and the construction of the Government Communications Academy in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Through the assistance of the Department of Information and Communications Technology-Mindanao Cluster 2, the RDC-X Full Council conducted the first-ever virtual meeting in the country.  Around sixty RDC-X members, local chief executives and district representatives joined the video conference. “We made a big leap today in improving the way we do things through innovation and futuristic thinking, while supporting the government’s effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 through social distancing in meetings,” said RDC-X Vice Chair and NEDA-X Regional Director Mylah Faye Aurora B. Cariño. The council also welcomed Dr. Modesto Babaylan, its new Co-Chairperson for the private sector, who co-presided over the meeting. RDC-X Chairperson and Misamis Occidental Governor Philip T. Tan lauded the use of available technologies which allowed RDC-X to continue its policy and development work during the community quarantine and urged the agencies to employ similar means to save on resources. Earlier in the meeting, DOH-X Regional Director Adriano Suba-an shared brief updates on the COVID-19 measures and status in Region X. Local leaders expressed both concern and support, calling for a region-wide set of protocols to contain the spread of the disease.  This recommendation and related concerns were discussed in the region’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting in the afternoon of the same day. (NEDA-X)

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