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Showing posts with label Headlines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Headlines. Show all posts

Penny’s Bay week-long quarantine slots closed within minutes again

Posted on 11 October 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

CE Carrie Lam inspecting Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre shortly after it opened (File)

The 350 slots that opened today, Oct 11, at Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre for foreign domestic helpers were again filled within minutes of the booking being opened. The bookings accepted today were for check-ins from Oct 29 to Nov 4.

Shortly after 9:00am when the booking opened, many Filipina DHs sent messages to The SUN to ask whether there was a problem with the online system, or whether it did not open as promised, as they could not get in.

As before, a few asked what the reference number on the dedicated booking website was. It turned out they had pressed “enquiry” because they could not activate the “start booking” button.

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But the window linked to the Department of Labour website is clear. “When the booking quotas have been filled, applicants cannot enter the page of ‘start booking’ of the booking system,” says an advisory posted on website.

In short, the booking was again closed because there were no more rooms available at Penny’s Bay. The booking will resume on next Monday, Oct 18.

The difficulty of securing quarantine space has dealt another blow to many Filipino helpers who have been waiting for months to enter Hong Kong.

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One of them is Carlos Frondozo, who said in a comment on The SUN’s Facebook page that he had been stuck in the Philippines for nine months because he couldn’t get a quarantine booking.

Not a few, including Mhai Bautista, Ayona Boter and Cheng Hai repeated a call for more rooms being allotted to stranded workers, saying they are already “baon na baon na sa utang” (heavily in debt).

Another called Rosa Lee said she was hoping to book a quarantine room soon, as she was getting stressed because her medical certificate and employment visa were about to expire again.

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Today was the third Monday in a row when the weekly slots of 50 a day for the designated quarantine facility for FDHs were filled within minutes of the booking system’s opening.

Silka Tsuen Wan hotel, which has also been designated as a quarantine facility for incoming helpers, has long been booked until the end of this month, so getting a room there is even more difficult, as well as pricier.

A room at Penny’s Bay costs $480 a day for FDHs who need to stay there for 21 days, while at Silka, the daily rate is $800.

Silka costs nearly twice as much as Penny's Bay

Labour Secretary Law Chi-kwong has said that Hong Kong is allotting a maximum of 50 rooms a day for the FDHs arriving from high-risk countries, so as to minimize the risk of imported cases entering the city.

He cited the positivity rate among newly arrived FDHs of more than 4 percent between September and October as a basis for limiting their entry, even while acknowledging the huge demand for them from local families.

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Between 4,000 and 6,000 FDHs are reported to have been stranded in both the Philippines and India after Hong Kong designated them as high risk, and tightened restrictions on passenger arrivals from both places.

The flight ban took longer in the Philippines, which was classified as high risk on Apr 20, while Indonesia was added to the list on Jun 25.

While the designation remains, FDHs from both places were allowed to start coming back on Aug 30, although in very limited numbers.

On top of this, all FDHs who were vaccinated outside of Hong Kong are required to spend their 21-day quarantine either at Penny’s Bay or Silka Tsuen Wan hotel.

Those who wish to book a room at Penny's Bay may log on to: www.fdh.labour.gov.hk

For Silka, the booking link is here: https://www.guestreservations.com/silka-tsuen-wan-hotel/booking

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Phl sets new daily record of 26,303 new Covid-19 infections

Posted on 11 September 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

Of the total number of infected people, 185,706 are still battling the disease

The Philippines posted 26,303 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, the highest daily tally ever recorded since the first coronavirus case was first detected in the country in January 2020.

The new all-time high figure beats the 22,820 cases recorded just two days  ago.

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According to the Department of Health, the new infections raised the country’s overall tally to 2,206,021 cases, of which 8.4%, or 185,706 patients are still battling the disease.

Of the active cases, 85.3% have mild symptoms, 10.2% are asymptomatic, 2.56% are moderately ill, 1.3% are in severe condition, and 0.6% are critical.

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An additional 79 patients succumbed to the disease, raising the death toll to 34,978 or 1.59% of all the cases logged so far.

The number of recoveries went up to 1,985,337 or 90% of all cases, after 16,013 patients were reported to have recovered.

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The total excludes data from two laboratories that failed to submit their reports on time, says the DOH. These laboratories accounted for about 0.8% of tested samples and 1.1% of positive cases in the last 14 days.

The positivity rate - or percentage of tested people with positive results - dropped from 28.8% on Sept 8 to 27.6% on Sept. 9, based on 75,688 tests reported.

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The rate remains way higher than the prescribed critical level of 20%, which indicates more testing are urgently needed.

The World Health Organization says infection in an area can be deemed to have been controlled if the positivity rate is below 5%.

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Meanwhile, the price of Covid testing, which is already out of reach of the country’s poor, could become even more costly after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end all government transactions with the Philippine Red Cross, which provides the cheapest testing service.

President Duterte is insisting on a government audit of the Red Cross, which enjoys charitable organization status.

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His threat comes as Red Cross chair, Senator Dick Gordon, leads an investigation into the government’s massive spending on pandemic supplies, a deal brokered by one of  Duterte’s close advisers.

Metro Manila mayors want clear guidelines on imposing granular lockdowns 

Meanwhile, Metro Manila mayors have called on the national government to include them when deciding on the shift in the country’s pandemic response, noting that the unclear guidelines on so-called “granular lockdowns” have led to confusion.

On Tuesday, the national government suspended the implementation of granular lockdowns in specified areas across the national capital region, and instead extended the modified enhanced community quarantine until Sept 15.

The national task force against Covid-19 said the suspension was due to unfinished guidelines.

The mayors said there should be a framework under which they are allowed to impose the sectional lockdowns before such an intricate policy is implemented.

They also shirk at having to shoulder in full the costs needed for mass testing and quarantine, and contact tracing.

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Philippines posts new daily high of 19,441 Covid-19 cases

Posted on 28 August 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

Metro Manila will remain under MECQ because of the record spike in cases

The Philippines has posted its highest ever daily tally of Covid-19 cases, with 19,441 new infections recorded on Saturday.

It’s the third time this month that the country has posted a record daily tally. The last time was only five days ago, when over 18,000 cases were recorded.

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The record spike in cases prompted the national government to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila until Sept 7.

Like Metro Manila, the provinces of Bataan and Laguna will be under MECQ with additional restrictions on dining, personal care services and religious activities for the next 10 days.

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Under regular MECQ are Apayao, Ilocos Norte, Bulacan, Cavite, Lucena City, Rizal, Aklan, Iloilo Province, Iloilo City, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

The newly confirmed cases pushed up the country’s total tally to 1,935,700, with 7.4% of them or 142,679 active cases.

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The daily count did not include results from three laboratories which failed to make the cut-off time for reporting.

An overwhelming number, or 95.5% of the patients have mild symptoms, 1.8% are asymptomatic, 1.1% have severe symptoms, 0.99 are moderately ill, while 0.6% are in critical condition.

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The death toll climbed up to 33,008 after 167 more people succumbed to the disease within the past 24 hours.

But the total recoveries were up, too, with 19,191 patients being declared free of the coronavirus. This raised the total number of recoveries to 1,790,013, or 90.9% of the total infections.


The so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of people from among those tested who return positive results, also rose to a new record high of 27.5% of the 71,620 who were tested Friday.

This is the 20th straight day that the rate has been over the indicated critical level of 20% of those tested, highlighting the need to do more testing.


According to the standard set by the World Health Organization, the positivity rate should be below 5% to declare that the infection in a place is under control.

More testing is needed as shown by the country's high positivity rate

With the continuing surge in new cases, almost half of Metro Manila cities have reported over 70% hospital bed utilization rate, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

"Dito po sa National Capital Region, ang utilization po ng ating mga ospital, mayroon tayo almost 50% of our cities na iyong bed utilization po nila ay nasa more than 70% na," she said during a press briefing.

(Here in the National Capital Region, for hospital utilization, almost 50% of our cities have more than 70% bed utilization already.)

She added that intensive care units in all but six cities in the NCR have breached the 70% utilization rate.

Vergeire said the government will take measures to expand bed capacity — including setting up tents and modular hospitals in critical areas.

DOH figures as of Aug 27 show that Metro Manila had the highest tally of new infections in the past 14 days with 48,469, followed by Calabarzon with 37,940, and Central Luzon with 22,708.

Cavite was the top province with the most new cases in the same period with 15,355, followed by Laguna with 10,626, and Bulacan with 9,445.

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CE says FDHs will be allowed to enter HK gradually

Posted on 24 August 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

CE Lam says FDHs will be allowed in on a controlled and gradual manner

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that Hong Kong will control the number of foreign domestic helpers entering the city so they will not “create pressure” on the government.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the Executive Council meeting earlier today, Lam said: "The number of foreign domestic helpers who could come back to Hong Kong through this special arrangement has to be rationed, has to be controlled.”

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She added, "We could not allow thousands of foreign domestic helpers to come in every week, otherwise, the chance of having more confirmed cases either discovered at the airport or during the quarantine periods will overload Hong Kong's public hospital system."

The top official said a designated quarantine hotel for FDHs has already been selected, and it can accommodate up to 400 guests. Another one will be picked out soon. Reports say the first hotel chosen is Silka Far East hotel in Tsuen Wan.

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Given that all FDHs coming in from high-risk countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia are required to spend 21 days in quarantine, only about 1,000 of them can come in each month, even if a second hotel is designated for their use.

The CE said officials should be able to give more details this week on the plan to start allowing helpers from the two countries to travel to Hong Kong for work.

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At least 3,000 FDHs with employment visas are reported to have been stranded in the Philippines alone since a flight ban on the country was imposed on Apr 20 after it was designated as “high risk” for Covid-19.

Indonesia was included in the list on Jun 25.

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The ban on passenger flights from all high-risk countries was officially lifted on Aug 9, but only for those with vaccination records recognized by Hong Kong, eliminating everyone, residents or FDHs, who had their vaccination in the Philippines or Indonesia.

CE Lam says details of scheme to allow FDHs to enter HK will be announced soon

CE Lam confirmed that talks have been ongoing with the consulates of the two countries on vaccination recognition, but did not mention any deal being struck, or whether a date has been set for the start for the workers’ return.

She appealed to employers waiting for helpers to join them in Hong Kong to be patient.


“They (helpers) will have to come in phases, so I would like to ask employers to be more patient with the system because they will not be able to welcome their foreign domestic helpers within a short period,” she said.

In addition to the 21-day quarantine at a designated hotel, all FDHs flying in will have to present a recognized vaccination record and a negative result for a RT-PCR test done within 72 hours before departing for Hong Kong.

Reports say Silka Hotel in Tsuen Wan is the first designated quarantine place for FDHs
They will also have to undergo six more tests during compulsory quarantine, self-monitor for a further seven days, and do another test on the 26th day after arrival at a community testing centre in Hong Kong.

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Singapore to allow HK travelers to enter quarantine-free

Posted on 20 August 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

HK visitors may enter Singapore without quarantine from midnight tonight

Singapore has announced that it will allow all travelers from Hong Kong to skip quarantine when they fly in starting at 11:59 tonight, regardless of their vaccination status.

The announcement was made as both governments announced they would abandon a travel bubble plan, which would have allowed a reciprocal quarantine-free entry to each other’s residents.

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Singapore will unilaterally open to visitors from Hong Kong, which is in category 1,” said the city state’s minister for transport, S Iswaran.

“Similar to visitors from other very low risk countries and regions like Mainland China (excluding Jiangsu province), New Zealand and Taiwan, visitors from Hong Kong will be allowed to enter Singapore with just an on-arrival test.”

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The new rules will also apply to visitors from Macau.

Singapore said the move is part of its new strategy of building a “Covid-resilient” nation, which entails relaxing anti-pandemic measures and allowing the virus to become part of a “new normal.”

Because of this policy shift, Hong Kong said it has decided to end talks on a travel bubble with Singapore.

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Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said Singapore’s decision to change its strategy in combating the virus deviates from certain criteria the two governments had decided to adopt before agreeing on a travel bubble.

“As a result, we have to put a pause to this bilateral arrangement,” said Yau.

Yau (right, with Health Secretary Sophia Chan) confirms the end of travel bubble plan

But he added he was glad Singapore recognized the stable situation and “close to zero community outbreak” in Hong Kong and has thus decided unilaterally to give quarantine-free access to visitors from here.

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Travelers from Singapore, on the other hand, can only enjoy the lowest quarantine period of 14 days if they are vaccinated when they enter Hong Kong. The compulsory isolation goes up to 21 days if they are unvaccinated.

In addition, they must present a negative result for a PCR test conducted within 72 hours before boarding, and get tested on arrival and four more during quarantine.

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This is in line with the boarding and quarantine requirements set for places designated as medium risk like Singapore.

Also in this category are Taiwan, Macau and the Mainland, and most other countries that are not among the 24 places listed as high-risk, from where only vaccinated residents can enter Hong Kong, and quarantine for 21 days.

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The only country classified as low risk or category C is New Zealand, where travelers who visit Hong Kong can reduce their quarantine period to just seven days if they are vaccinated.

In a statement earlier today, Hong Kong clarified that its requirement for travelers to hold “recognized” vaccination records applies only to residents coming in from category A or high-risk countries.


For those arriving from medium to low risk countries, it is enough that they hold vaccination records issued “by the relevant authorities or relevant institutions where the vaccines were administered.”

"For high-risk Group A specified places, Hong Kong residents are currently required to hold recognized vaccination records for boarding flights for Hong Kong, and they must undergo compulsory quarantine in designated quarantine hotels for 21 days upon arrival at Hong Kong. The relevant requirements remain unchanged," said the statement.

The footnote said the “recognized vaccination records” include those issued by Hong Kong, Mainland or Macau authorities; those by countries designated by the World Health Organization as having a stringent regulatory authority; or those with a bilateral vaccination record recognition agreement with Hong Kong.

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Duterte admits drugs, corruption still major problems in final SONA

Posted on 27 July 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Duterte's last SONA lasted three hours, and was punctuated by many adlibs

President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his sixth and last State of the Nation Address,  admitting that drugs and corruption, which he vowed to wipe out when he assumed the presidency in July 2016, are still festering.

But in his three-hour-speech, which the President said is “less in vision but more in remembrances,” he praised his government’s accomplishments in the five years that he had been in office.

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“Our economy was poised to leapfrog … to be among one of the fastest-growing economies until Covid-19 pandemic stalled everything,” Duterte said in his rambling speech punctuated by frequent ad libs.

This year’s “hybrid SONA” combined the proceedings at the Batasan that was attended by about 350 guests and lawmakers, with online attendance by government figures including Vice President Leni Robredo and past presidents.

Duterte thanked the frontliners in the fight against the pandemic for their sacrifices, risking their own safety, as well as the private sector for coming to the aid of the government in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic before talking a long list of topics.

He said providing free education, universal health care, free irrigation to farmers, were among his many visions when he took over the presidency, but realized he had no funds for such projects. Nevertheless, he said, they have been implemented.

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Duterte said while his government turned its attention to projects and programs to improve the lives of the people, the perennial problems of drugs and corruption again reared their ugly heads.

Looking back at his drug war, he said he promoted his trusted Davao City chief of police, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, to head the Philippine National Police, with orders to hunt down the drug manufacturers and their peddlers, until he realized “I was fighting my own government.”

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He said corrupt Customs officials made things easy for drug importers and police generals protected the drug lords.

Duterte said with Dela Rosa destroying the apparatuses of the drug manufacturers, they have shifted to importing drugs and processing them in laboratories on board tugboats of a country he did not name.

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He warned these drug importers and their peddlers will face his wrath. “Those who destroy my country, I will kill you, and those who destroy the young people in my country, I will kill you,” he said in his usual tough talk.

Duterte claimed that the latest statistics provided him showed about 1,000 youths are arrested each day for selling drugs. He added that many of those arrested from the middle class have been released from prison despite drug trafficking being a nonbailable offense.

He linked the drug problem to parents leaving their very young children to relatives or friends as they go abroad to work. He said the boys turn to drugs while the girls become prostitutes.

The President said it hurts him to think every night about Filipinas going to work in the Middle East who become prey to abuses by certain tribes that consider paid workers as slaves and their property. As a result, he said, these women are subjected to sexual abuse.

The worse part of it is when they decide to return home in 4-5 years, when they find that everything they had worked hard for is gone and their family dispersed.    

Duterte is flanked by Senate President Tito Sotto and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

 On the anti-insurgency front, Duterte said his troops have destroyed more than 15 apparatuses of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Maraming sundalo ang namatay sa mga armas na ipinasok ng mga rebelde sa Pilipinas.

That is my order to you, if you see them walking around, kindly shoot them dead, and I will be happy,” he said.

“Anyway, you’re only charged in the ICC together with me, so what is the problem of adding another one, another idiot Filipino who has caused great damage to our country?”

To the applause of retired generals who were behind the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, or NTF-ELCAC, Duterte praised their so-called barangay improvement projects to address the root cause of the insurgency.

Duterte called on Congress to pass laws creating scholarship programs for children of displaced overseas Filipino workers, as well as agribusiness and entrepreneurship programs for them; restoring the death penalty through lethal injection; reverting all TV frequencies to the government for use in educational and e-learning programs; requiring telecoms to improve internet connectivity and passing Bayanihan 2 Act and Covid-19 Adjustment Program to deal with the continuing challenges of the pandemic; and providing further incentives to the military such as free legal assistance and a pension fund.

Protesters braved the rains and pandemic restrictions
to speak out against human rights abuses during Duterte's term

Meanwhile, two separate contra speeches to Duterte’s SONA were delivered in the House of Representatives.

Both House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr and Albay First District Representative Edcel Lagman slammed Duterte over his failure to provide a clear plan for fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, thousands of people braved the rains to march from the University of the Philippines campus to Commonwealth Avenue ahead of Duterte’s final SONA.

Protesters from various groups led by Bayan and its affiliates gathered in UP Diliman at 9 am, and began marching about 3 hours later, while chanting anti-Duterte slogans. They were joined by Makabayan bloc lawmakers wearing their protest outfits.

The groups said their protest was a condemnation of Duterte’s tyranny and rights abuses during his five years in office.

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