House mulling mass COVID-19 vaccination for lawmakers, workers

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2020 06:45 PM

MANILA — The House of Representatives is looking into the possibility of conducting mass vaccination of its members and workers against COVID-19 once a vaccine becomes available as the chamber has recorded 98 cases of the disease during a recent mass testing.

House Secretary-General Mark Llandro Mendoza said the funding for the COVID-19 vaccine has been the priority of House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and there have been discussions with vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez regarding the matter.

“Isa yan sa thrust din na gusto gawin ni House Speaker Velasco. Nag-initial discussion na kay Sec. Galvez with regard doon sa vaccination,” Mendoza told the House media. 

(That is one of the thrusts of House Speaker Velasco. There is an initial discussion already with Sec. Galvez regarding the vaccination.)

Mendoza said Velasco prioritized the mass testing in the House to address the safety concerns of lawmakers and employees because previous testing only covered those who have symptoms, which, he said, was limited. 

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The 98 individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus account for about 5 percent of the 2,000 lawmakers and employees working in the lower chamber of Congress who underwent RT-PCR testing starting Nov. 10, Mendoza said in a statement on Tuesday. 

He quelled fears of a possible COVID-19 outbreak in the institution, explaining that many of those who tested positive during the mass testing got infected outside of the premises of the House of Representatives. 

The House, he said, also coordinated with the Quezon City local government to have a “more extensive” contact tracing among its employees.

The communities where the 98 individuals got infected have likewise been informed.

Mendoza responded in the negative when asked about closing the House for disinfection, saying that the premises get disinfected, sanitized and even fumigated every Friday. The chamber has a 4-day work week.

HOUSE TO CONDUCT ANOTHER MASS TESTING IN JANUARY

According to the House secretary-general, before the tests that yielded Tuesday’s figure, the lower chamber registered 93 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. 

Of those, 52 had mild cases, 14 were moderate cases, 7 were severe, while the rest were asymptomatic. These individuals have already recovered and were tested negative for the disease during the mass testing, Mendoza said. 

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The House, he added, would have another round of mass testing in January, just before the chamber resumes its legislative sessions after the Yuletide break.

There are no plans to ban visitors at the Batasang Pambansa, though there will be limitations such as the need to schedule access.

Visitors, meanwhile, must adhere to safety protocols which include undergoing antigen tests even if they have certification that they have been tested prior. 

Mendoza said the House is looking to either subsidize partially or in-full the cost of the said testing.

The Philippines, so far, has recorded a total of 434,357 coronavirus infections, of which, 26,916 are active cases. The number of recoveries stood at 399,005, and the death toll, 8,436.

The country's first case was confirmed on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged late last year.