Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday declared a lockdown at the Senate building after seven senators and several employees tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the 19th Congress last month.
Senators JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay announced yesterday they had both tested positive for the coronavirus.
Nobody will be allowed to enter the Senate building after Friday’s hearing of the Senate committee on basic education, chaired by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
“In light of recent events where several senators particularly Senators (Alan Peter) Cayetano, (Imee) Marcos, (Cynthia) Villar, (Grace) Poe, (Joel) Villanueva, (JV) Ejercito and (Nancy) Binay being COVID positive and several others exposed due to their staff members and members of the Secretariat catching the virus, I have instructed the Secretariat to conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of all Senate offices,” Zubiri said.
Due to this, the Senate President said there will be a total lockdown of the Senate building.
Furthermore, all Senate employees shall work from home and need not report to the Senate on Monday, Aug. 22, he said.
He said Senate sessions will resume on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
“Please stay safe and healthy everyone. Together we shall fight this virus and continue to deliver government service as efficiently as possible,” said Zubiri, adding that for this week alone, 47 people tested positive.
Meanwhile, Binay said that after more than two years of consciously observing all protocols to avoid the virus, she tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 18.
“I am currently at home in isolation, and strictly following recommended protocols, including health and safety procedures,” Binay said.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Poe was infected with the coronavirus.
Cayetano was the first to be afflicted with the virus after the 19th Congress opened.
Zubiri was hit by COVID-19 three times.
Other senators tested positive for COVID-19 in the 18th Congress were Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Juan Edgardo Angara, Ronald dela Rosa, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla.
Meanwhile, the independent OCTA Research Group said the weekly COVID-19 positivity rate of the National Capital Region (NCR) has gone down to 15.3 percent.
OCTA fellow Guido David, in a tweet, said the NCR’s positivity rate decreased to 15.3 percent as of August 17 from 17.2 percent on Aug. 10.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.
David said the one-week growth rate of the region was also at negative 8 percent.
The reproduction number or the number of people infected by one case was at 1.01. A reproduction number that is below 1 indicates the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
Despite this, after the health care utilization rate in NCR rose to 40 percent from 36 percent, the ICU occupancy rate also increased to 36 percent from 33 percent.
On Thursday, David said the number of COVID-19 infections in the region is on a downtrend. He said NCR remains at moderate risk for COVID-19.
The Philippines reported Thursday a total of 3,844,708 confirmed cases, of which 36,115 are active.
The Department of Health (DOH) clarified on Friday that its risk classification metrics are based on national health care capacity, considering the US-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC)’s Travel Health Notice on the Philippines as a Level 3 destination due to its “high-level” of COVID-19.
The Philippines uses a different set of metrics to determine COVID-19 risk classifications in the country, compared to the metrics used by the US-CDC, the DOH said in a statement.
Their metrics serve to alert travelers about health threats around the world and advise on how to keep from getting infected. US-CDC metrics use the number of cases over the past 28 days per 100,000 population, triangulated with their testing data.
“In the Philippines, in addition to using average daily attack rate (ADAR) in the recent two weeks, we also put more focus on our health
care system capacity. We also consider our total bed utilization rate and vaccination coverage in determining alert levels for specific areas in the country,” the DOH said.
At present, the country remains at low-risk classification in terms of both the ADAR and total beds utilization rate,” the department said.
“The Department also reiterates that we have aligned our metrics with most of the other countries in terms of travel restrictions. As stated in Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution No. 168, series of 2022, we allow foreign nationals to enter the country as long as they are able to prove that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” the DOH said.