MANILA— Organizers and hosts of President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday are ramping up preparations and health care protocols amid the threat of the more contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.
With 3 days to go before the SONA, the House of Representatives said they are fully prepared to ensure safety at the President's sixth and last report to the nation.
This, in the wake of the health department's confirmation of local transmission of the Delta variant, a highly contagious strain that first emerged in India and caused catastrophic spread of the virus. The variant has also caused a surge in infections in parts of Asia.
“Medically speaking, we are 100 percent ready at the Medical and Dental Service Team of the House of Representatives,” said Dr. Raffy Valencia, officer-in-charge of the lower chamber’s Medical and Dental Service.
Compared to previous SONAs, Valencia said health and safety protocols this year are more tedious because of the pandemic.
Part of the health and safety protocols that must be followed by House and Senate Members, guests, personnel, and others who would physically attend SONA are the following:
- Presentation of negative RT-PCR or antigen tests
- Presentation of vaccination cards
- Presentation of SONA IDs issued by the House
- Filling up a health declaration form from the Presidential Security Group (PSG)
Valencia said the PSG has identified 3 buildings that no one could enter unless they have negative RT-PCR and antigen test results.
The House has named these “sanitized” areas as “bubble” buildings. These are the South Wing Annex, the Main Building where the Plenary Hall is located, and the Ramon V. Mitra Building within the Batasang Pambansa Complex.
“'Yun pong mga papasok sa office pero di papasok sa ‘bubble’ areas, as per our protocol, have to undergo antigen testing. The antigen test would be manned by the Medical Team, doon po tayo sa Library,” the official explained.
(Those who will enter their offices but won’t enter the bubble areas would undergo antigen testing… at the library.)
“That will only be from 6 a.m. to 10 am. By 10 a.m. pack up na po, wala nang antigen test. 'Yun pong antigen tests sa North and South Lobby entrances, sa mga papasok sa ‘sanitized’ or 'bubble’ areas, these would be done by the PSG,” he added.
(No more antigen tests by 10 a.m.)
Antigen tests in the North and South Lobbies might be until 3 p.m. or before the President arrives, “because by 2 p.m. there will be I think a partial closure then 3 p.m. sarado na lahat ng gate,” Valencia said.
RT-PCR tests for employees who would be entering the Plenary Hall or the “bubble” buildings on Monday will be done on Saturday.
On Sunday, it will be the turn of House Members and some officials, including members of the House Medical and Dental Service Team, to undergo RT-PCR tests.
“We have to submit everything on time so we could get the results before Monday. So early part of Sunday, or mid-Sunday for those who were swabbed on Saturday and before 12 midnight for those swabbed 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday,” he said.
“The instruction for everyone is hangga’t wala 'yung RT-PCR test result mo, huwag ka munang pupunta ng House kasi we really don’t know if positive or negative ka. The lab would immediately be providing us a list on who tested positive so we will immediately know,” Valencia said.
(Unless you have the results of your RT-PCR tests, you cannot go to the House because we don’t know if you are positive or negative of the virus)
Valencia said they will implement the health protocols strictly, adding that those who have yet to take their second dose of the vaccine will be allowed entry to the Plenary Hall.
“Talagang mahigpit kung sa mahigpit. Meron silang antigen test. Kahit negative RT-PCR mo pag bumagsak ka sa antigen hindi ka papasukin.”
(We will be stricter than strict. An antigen test is needed and when you test positive for it, even if your RT-PCR test is negative, you will still not be allowed to enter the premises)
Those who test negative in their RT-PCR but positive in their antigen test will be brought to either the Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital along Batasan Road, Quezon City or the Diliman Doctors Hospital along Commonwealth Avenue, or would be sent home and consult.
Valencia also reminded attendees that once they enter the “bubble” area, they will have to stay there until the President’s speech is finished.
Other important health protocols are physical distancing and the wearing of masks and face shields at all times inside the Plenary Hall.
“Even with a negative RT-PCR, everybody is advised to distance at least 1.5 meters, properly wear a good surgical mask with medical grade as much as possible, and not to remove their face shield,” he said.
Double masking is recommended, he said, as an added protection from the Delta variant. Face shields, meanwhile, will be provided by the PSG once an attendee enters the Main Building.
NO WALKING ON DRIVEWAYS
This SONA, the PSG will not allow walking on the driveways of the House.
“Those who need to go to other buildings will be provided with shuttle service. Hindi ia-allow na maglakad ka sa kalsada ng House,” he said.
In case of emergency, Valencia said the House coordinated with hospitals located in the vicinity of the legislative complex, or those 8 to 10 kilometers away.
These are the following:
- St. Luke’s Medical Center both in Quezon City and Global City, including the use of their helipad
- Diliman Doctors Hospital
- V. Luna Medical Center, including the use of its helipad
- Capitol Medical Center
- Veterans Memorial Medical Hospital, including the use of its helipad
- National Kidney and Transplant Institute
- Philippine Heart Center
Likewise, the Medical Team invited 4 hospital teams with their respective ambulances outside the gate of the House.
- Philippine Heart Center
- East Avenue Medical Center
- Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center
- President Quirino Memorial Medical Center
He also advised the SONA attendees to come early on Monday and bring their House ID and SONA ID, and fill in their health declaration form.