Within weeks of its detection, the new coronavirus brought the entire world to an abrupt standstill in a bid to stop its spread among nations. The baffling disease and its infection rates propelled governments to implement emergency medical measures, severe lockdowns, and closures of borders.
Setting the facts straight: COVID-19
According to World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus is a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common colds to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease 19 or COVID-19.
COVID-19 was first reported at the World Health Organization (WHO) country office in China in December 2019, and has since spread across continents, infected more than six million individuals and caused 370,000 deaths (as of 30 May 2020). A person-to-person transmission may occur when respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth of an infected person make their way to the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person. Symptoms vary from one person to another, but is generally characterized by respiratory ailments such as common colds, cough, sore throat, and pneumonia.
With fears of not knowing much about the virus and the possibility of emerging new strains, further studies by various international health, disease control, and pharmaceutical organizations are being conducted to collect more information about the virus, find treatments, and create a vaccine to prevent infections. While there are no established medications or treatments yet, the general public is cautioned to stay at home, limit movement to buying or attending to necessities, and exercise vigilance when doing business, or visiting areas with confirmed cases.
What NAMRIA has been doing
The Philippines recorded its first case of COVID-19 in January 2020, and the number of cases gradually increased in the succeeding months. The first case of local transmission was recorded in March 2020. The increasing trend prompted the government to declare a state of national emergency, through Republic Act No. 11469, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act. This allows the government to provide the necessary assistance to the health system and communities and businesses affected by COVID-19.
Government employees, through Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 10, series of 2020, adopted the Revised Interim Guidelines for Alternative Work Arrangements and Support Mechanisms for Workers in the Government during the Period of State of National Emergency due to COVID-19 Pandemic, providing several options for civil servants to fulfill their duties even during the pandemic. The issuance was reiterated by NAMRIA through MC No. 006, Series of 2020 and was circulated to all employees. The agency also published and disseminated to all employees Special Order No. 159, Series of 2020, with details onthe implementation of alternative work arrangements (AWA) during the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in the National Capital Region. The AWA is a combination of skeleton workforce and work-from-home options, and will be effective within the quarantine period.
Under the leadership of NAMRIA Administrator, Usec. Peter N. Tiangco, PhD, additional measures are being implemented to control the possible spread of the virus. In March 2020, all employees, clients, and visitors were required to undergo thermal scanning before they can gain entry to the building premises. Those with 37.6 degrees Celsius or higher registered body temperatures were given masks by the attending security personnel. The names of the concerned individuals were registered in a logbook for monitoring purposes. At that time, persons manifesting more than one symptom were still allowed entry, but were advised to seek urgent medical attention.
NAMRIA’s security personnel conducts thermal scanning on an employee.
-- VENER QUINTIN C. TAGUBA, JR.
Employees and visitors use the hand sanitizer dispensers when entering and leaving the building premises.
-- VENER QUINTIN C. TAGUBA, JR.
An external service provider regularly conducts disinfection in all offices of NAMRIA
in Fort Bonifacio and San Nicolas. -- LADY P. SMITH
An employee reads the information material provided by DOH on proper handwashing and coughing etiquette techniques.
-- ERWIN D. FAMATIGA
Hand sanitizers and alcohol dispensers were also provided in conspicuous areas within the Fort Bonifacio and San Nicolas offices, particularly those providing frontline services. All facilities, including the offices and comfort rooms, were regularly cleaned and disinfected by the janitorial services. Instructions on proper handwashing techniques from the Department of Health (DOH) were also posted on the bulletin boards of NAMRIA. The guidelines in DOH MC 2020-0006 – Providing for the Reporting and Information Dissemination Protocol in Response to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV Health Event are currently observed by the agency.
In conjunction with the 2020 Women’s Month Celebration, NAMRIA also conducted an orientation/briefing on COVID-19 last March. Dr. Valeriano V. Timbang, medical officer from DOH, served as the resource person for the event. He provided a lecture on COVID-19, and discussed protective measures against the virus. With all the information available from the media, he emphasized that the most effective strategies are proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette, social distancing, avoiding crowded places, and boosting the immune system.
NAMRIA, through the Geospatial Information System Management Branch (GISMB), is collaborating with the DOH for the development of the COVID Map App, a collection of up-to-date digital maps on COVID-19 in the Philippines. The maps and the corresponding statistics are updated daily. The COVID Map App features geospatial data on COVID-19 case information on national, regional, provincial, and city/municipal levels; including health status and sex-disaggregated data on patients, and the location of licensed testing laboratories. The COVID-19 maps on Geoportal Philippines can be accessed through the link http://geoportal.gov.ph/gpapps/covidapp
. Geoportal Philippines is a web mapping portal service that provides a system for sharing of and access to geospatial information using one common multiscale basemaps.
Dr. Timbang of DOH explains the etiology of COVID-19. -- ERWIN D. FAMATIGA
Group picture of Dr. Timbang together with the participants -- ERWIN D. FAMATIGA
Daily updates are posted on the COVID-19 Map App of Geoportal Philippines.
The COVID-19 measures in place were initiated by the Emergency Response Committee of NAMRIA’s Morale and Welfare Program, led by Deputy Administrator Jose C. Cabanayan Jr.
The COVID-19 response program of NAMRIA will only be effective if employees and visitors will exercise all necessary precautions to control the spread of the virus. As emphasized by Dr. Timbang, boosting the immune system would still be the most important strategy one can take to combat COVID-19.
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