Warning to PH: Scientists Warn New Virus in Pigs in China Has High Potential Pandemic Risk

G4 type descended from H1N1 has 'all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus', Chinese scientists say.

Articles Inside:

Scientists warn new virus in pigs has potential pandemic risk - www.aljazeera.com

China study warns of possible new 'pandemic virus' from pigs - www.reuters.com

Warning new pig virus has pandemic risk - 7news.com.au

Chinese scientists warn a new pandemic virus, starting in pigs, could hit humans - nationalpost.com

Chinese researchers warn of new virus in pigs with human pandemic risk- economictimes.indiatimes.com

Chinese researchers warn of new virus in pigs with human pandemic risk - www.enca.com

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Recto blasts DA's order for PH poultry raisers to limit production to give way to imports - news.abs-cbn.com

Seized pork dumplings from China at a port in Manila test positive for African swine fever - www.cnnphilippines.com

Smuggled pork from China caused African Swine Flu in Philippines, Agriculture Department says - coconuts.co

Duterte not keen on banning travel to China amid coronavirus scare - cnnphilippines.com

The Philippines’ Pandemic Response: A Tragedy of Errors - thediplomat.com

Scientists warn new virus in pigs has potential pandemic risk

G4 type descended from H1N1 has 'all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus', Chinese scientists say.

A new flu virus found in pigs in China has become more infectious to humans and needs to be watched closely in case it becomes a potential "pandemic virus", a new study has found.

A team of Chinese researchers looked at influenza viruses found in pigs from 2011 to 2018 and found a "G4" strain of H1N1 with "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus", according to the paper, which was published in the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Workers on pig farms showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, the authors said, adding that "close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented.

"Pigs are intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus. Thus, systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is a key measure for prewarning the emergence of the next pandemic influenza," the study said.

The peer-reviewed study was authored by academics at the China Agricultural University, Shandong Agricultural University, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of Nottingham.

'Mixing vessels'

The study highlights the risks of viruses crossing the species barrier into humans, especially in densely populated areas where millions live in close proximity to farms, breeding facilities, slaughterhouses and wet markets.

The novel coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have originated in horseshoe bats in southwest China, and could have spread to humans via a seafood market in Wuhan, where the virus was first identified.

The PNAS study said pigs are considered important "mixing vessels" for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses and called for "systematic surveillance" of the problem.

China took action against an outbreak of avian H1N1 in 2009, restricting incoming flights from affected countries and putting tens of thousands of people into quarantine.

The new virus identified in the study is a recombination of the 2009 H1N1 variant and a once prevalent strain found in pigs.

Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/scientists-warn-virus-pigs-potential-pandemic-risk-200630032738586.html?fbclid=IwAR1eYAdKBfxOzslTQjs80qNjSTfzte7lEFOoHsEfErvAYS3nkXOVXPd7yVw

China study warns of possible new 'pandemic virus' from pigs

The new virus identified in the study is a recombination of the 2009 H1N1 variant and a once prevalent strain found in pigs.


Warning new pig virus has pandemic risk


Chinese scientists warn a new pandemic virus, starting in pigs, could hit humans


Chinese researchers warn of new virus in pigs with human pandemic risk


Chinese researchers warn of new virus in pigs with human pandemic risk


Recto blasts DA's order for PH poultry raisers to limit production to give way to imports

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday opposed the Department of Agriculture’s plan to increase poultry imports amid a supply glut in local market.

In a statement, the lawmaker slammed the agency’s move to limit local production of poultry to give way to foreign producers.

“At a time when we have to ramp up agricultural production in order to put affordable food on the table of Filipinos who have lost jobs, why this counterintuitive suggestion to limit production of the country’s main protein source?” he said.

“The farm sector is the economy’s savior and safety net, and a job generator amidst massive layoffs. The only way for the food industry to absorb the unemployed is for it to increase and not decrease its yield,” he added.

Citing a May 2020 data from DA, the country’s chicken supply is sufficient amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Recto said.

He said supply would last for a minimum of 160 days and a maximum of 314 days. Food sufficiency level is estimated between 136 percent to 183 percent.

“All of the three projections point to a surplus. If such is the case, why encourage imports? Kung 136 percent hanggang 183 percent ang chicken sufficiency forecast, bakit mag-aangkat pa?” Recto said.

He added, “And why should an agency whose sole mandate is to boost food production advise Filipino chicken raisers to scale down their output to give market space for dressed chicken coming from abroad?”

United Broilers and Raisers’ Association president Elias Jose Inciong, in a letter sent to the DA, earlier criticized the agency’s order to local chicken growers to limit production.

“In the kindest possible terms, this is one of the most bizarre thinking that ever emanated from the DA. The incongruence is glaring,” he said.

Source: https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/06/10/20/recto-blasts-das-order-for-ph-poultry-raisers-to-limit-production-to-give-way-to-imports

Seized pork dumplings from China at a port in Manila test positive for African swine fever

A shipment of pork-celery dumplings from China which was seized at a port in Manila last December has been found to be infected with the African swine fever.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in a statement on Saturday said the Manila International Container Port has ordered that the contents of the shipment be buried to prevent the spread of the virus, which affects only pigs.

The BOC said the container, consigned to Dynamic M Int'l Trading, Inc., arrived at the Manila North Harbor last December 11, 2019. It had other food items such as pork-chicken balls and roast-chicken wings.

The shipment was placed on hold as authorities suspected it contained misdeclared items, the BOC said, noting that the items did not have a sanitary permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry.

"After 100% examination of its contents and undergoing laboratory test from the Veterinary Quarantine Services (VQS), the pork-celery dumplings indicated the presence of ASF virus," the bureau said.

The MICP assured the public that it remains vigilant in preventing the entry of pork products that could have the swine fever virus.

The Philippines' import ban on pork and pork products covers 16 countries hit by swine fever, namely Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa, Zambia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Romania, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Mongolia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

The virus quickly spreads in an affected hog, which could lead to death after three to five days, threatening food supply. It does not infect humans, but they can carry the virus and spread the disease.

The Philippines had its first African swine fever case in July last year, meaning an outbreak. Cases of African swine fever have since been confirmed in a number of cities in Metro Manila and some provinces in Luzon, including Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Cavite.

Source: https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/1/25/african-swine-fever-pork-dumplings-manila-china.html

Smuggled pork from China caused African Swine Flu in Philippines, Agriculture Department says

The agriculture secretary yesterday blamed the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak in the Philippines on the arrival of infected pork smuggled from China, citing another bust of illegal and contaminated products.

Read: It’s here: African swine fever hits Philippines, Agriculture Department says

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that two seized containers carrying illegally smuggled pork products from China tested positive for ASF. The shipments, which arrived two weeks ago in the Port of Manila, were falsely declared as tomato paste and vermicelli, and were consigned to Jeniti International Trading, a company based in Binondo, Manila.

“That concludes really that this has been introduced by bringing it here, smuggling it here, introducing it here,” Dar said in a press conference yesterday, saying that contaminated pork scraps were likely dumped in Rizal only to be collected and repurposed as pig feed.

Source: https://coconuts.co/manila/news/smuggled-pork-from-china-caused-african-swine-flu-agriculture-department-says/

Duterte not keen on banning travel to China amid coronavirus scare

President Rodrigo Duterte maintained on Wednesday that banning travel between the country and China will not be easy, despite the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that originated in the East Asian nation.

"Mahirap 'yang ano, sabihin mong [It is hard to say that] you suspend everything because they are not also suspending theirs and they continue to respect the freedom flights that we enjoy," Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview.

However, he said the government is ready to repatriate Filipinos in Wuhan — the Chinese city which sits at the center of the outbreak — should they seek to come home to the Philippines.

"We are always conscious of our citizens [and] their health and if they are going home, we are ready to ferry them back to the Philippines but all precautions must be in place," he added.

The Foreign Affairs Department earlier said two charter planes are on standby to fetch Filipinos in Wuhan once they get the go signal from Chinese officials.

Duterte added that he will leave the precautionary measures to the proper authorities.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque was also reluctant to recommend banning Chinese nationals from entering the country.

Duque said they are looking at the ban as an option but he raised that China might question why the Philippines is not imposing the same restriction on other countries.

"If we do this, then the concerned country — China in this case ​—​​​​​​ might question why we're not doing the same for other countries that have reported confirmed cases of novel coronavirus," said Duque during a question hour at the House of Representatives.

The secretary maintained that the Department of Health has intensified surveillance on travelers who may have symptoms of the virus. He said they are now strictly monitoring not just visitors from Wuhan but from the entire Hubei province, where the city is located.

"As I have said, we have scaled up, we have leveled up border surveillance. Our quarantine officers are well equipped," he added.

Full Story: https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/1/29/duterte-on-china-travel-ban.html

The Philippines’ Pandemic Response: A Tragedy of Errors

The Duterte administration’s COVID-19 response marries incompetence with militarism.

The Philippine government has been boasting that as early as March 16, they had the gumption to implement a lockdown in major cities and provinces in response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. However, Manila’s overall response to the pandemic has been fraught with incompetence and rife with terror. 

The implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) came on the heels of serious negligence — namely, the authorities failing to keep up with the preventive measures of neighboring countries and grossly underestimating the virus. What’s worse, instead of easing the overall burden that the virus unleashed on the country, it seems the last resort lockdown itself added to a plethora of problems without adequately addressing the primary crisis at hand: ensuring public health and safety.

Strict compliance with the ECQ is ordered for all citizens, with the exception of frontline professionals, until at least May 15. That has meant curfews, harsh penalties for being outside, and an impoverished population descending into hunger. 

The global crisis is first and foremost a public health issue, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has faced the coronavirus pandemic in a decidedly militaristic fashion. Since the lockdown went into effect, he has peddled the narrative of pasaways or “undisciplined” citizens as responsible for the ensuing problems. He has also brought up unsubstantiated activities of guerrilla groups as threats to government aid efforts without conceding any missteps in his management. On top of deploying thousands of police and soldiers throughout the archipelago to enforce the ECQ, Duterte has on two occasions threatened the public with all-out martial law. There have been moments of abject incompetence from those in power around the world, but using the pandemic as a reason for increasingly flexing authoritarian muscles spells danger for the Philippines post-lockdown.

China and Allies First

While Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong took the early initiative on travel restrictions and emergency measures, the Philippines was noticeably late to follow suit. Duterte ordered a travel ban only for passengers coming from Wuhan, China specifically on January 31, a day after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Philippines. A few days later, the ban was expanded to the entirety of China, with the delay, as affirmed by Department of Health (DOH) chief Francisco Duque, attributed to a reluctance to upset relations with China.

Downplaying the hysteria as Filipinos scrambled for protective, medical, and sanitation equipment, Duterte attempted to allay fears in early February, saying there was “nothing really to be scared of.” 

Meanwhile, there was a noticeable rapid decline in supplies of items like face masks. On the day the first case was confirmed in the Philippines, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified that the government wouldn’t be distributing masks to vulnerable populations as it had none to give out. But a few days earlier, government leaders were touting Philippine generosity in aiding China with a donation of masks worth $1.4 million that were shipped to Wuhan. 

A full month passed before Duterte officially declared the country in a “State of Public Health Emergency” on March 9, five days before the number of confirmed COVID 19 patients breached the 100 mark. A week later, the government announced its initial emergency response package to the virus, totaling $535 million. With hospitals reportedly lacking in personal protective equipment (PPE), the financial stimulus came with disheartening details that half of the amount was intended for boosting the tourism industry and only 11.4 percent was aimed toward the acquisition of testing kits and other materials to curb the virus. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged the mass production and use of testing kits as a basic necessity in combating the pandemic, yet even the DOH on March 20 felt that there was “no need for mass testing yet,” a reminder of how they sorely misread the situation. 

Doctor Josh San Pedro, a co-convener of the Coalition of People’s Right to Health (CPRH), explained to The Diplomat that “health authorities may have been complacent, as it was only in mid-March that significant improvements were made to testing capacity, despite locally-made kits being ready as early as February. With a slashed budget for disease surveillance and epidemiology for 2020, contact tracing was increasingly difficult in Metro Manila for example, one of the world’s most densely populated cities.”

More infuriating for the public was the fact that the department confessed, two days later, to giving preferential treatment and testing to 34 unnamed public officials and their families. The president of PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan), Duterte’s party, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, was among the legislators who tested positive for COVID-19. He subsequently drew flak for violating quarantine protocols to visit his pregnant wife in the hospital, putting all the medical staff at risk. The incident has warranted no probe nor sanction from the authorities.

It wasn’t until April 14 that the DOH commenced mass testing to rectify their earlier errors, but some critics say present efforts are still gravely insufficient. San Pedro adds, “Despite being endowed with tens of thousands of test kits in donations we failed to meet the target of 8,000 tests per day at the end of April. Guidelines for ‘expansion’ of testing were only released on April 16. Majority of testing centers are still in Metro Manila, while only six are located in the provinces. Much is still needed in expanding testing throughout the archipelago, such as increasing testing and quarantine centers to minimize backlogs.”

Even with the DOH announcing that the country is starting to “flatten the curve,” coupled with a new target of 30,000 tests per day by the end of May, there is still some doubt as to whether this is achievable. As of writing, only 0.1 percent of the population has been tested. After analyzing government data, mathematics professor Lex Muga hopes that the target can be achieved but explained that “community transmission has not stopped. When we can see that the number of cases are decreasing daily is when we can assume the curve is flattening. But there are conditions, such as mass testing. DOH data is based on those who are confirmed positive with the virus but it has thousands of backlogs which we don’t yet know the results.”

Since the start of the pandemic, China has maintained a favorable position in the Duterte administration’s eyes. Even with ECQ measures still in place in early May, the government allowed for large-scale gambling with the re-opening of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations or POGOs, which have a significant Chinese workforce and capital.

Public officials are currently mulling the extension of the lockdown until June 15, which indicates that the country isn’t on the verge of managing the pandemic, contrary to DOH pronouncements. 

However, Dr. Julie Caguiat, also of CPRH, mentioned that there should be a better roadmap to attaining this with “mass testing not only for those with symptoms. But we should be testing for all, not only by priority. Hopefully, there can be random testing in areas that may have bigger concentrations of people.” Caguiat also noted that testing operations should be free (some cost around $60), with clear procedures on contact tracing for all — something that has yet to be undertaken, unlike in neighboring countries. 

What’s Scarier Than the Virus?

In the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, poor Filipinos especially were distraught by the prospect of contending with hunger. With no available sources of income and virtually nonexistent savings, many homeless and slum dwellers bore the brunt of the ECQ. 

On April 1, more than a hundred people from the city slums of Sitio San Roque gathered on a nearby highway to voice their discontent and demand food and aid. Their already poverty-stricken community, like many others, had found it near impossible to deal with having no livelihood or even space to stock up on food in such tight quarters. Twenty-one of the hungry protesters were beaten and arrested by the police. The incident summarily reflected the handling of grievances by the authorities during the lockdown.

The arrests occurred just over a week after Duterte granted himself emergency powers to deal with the pandemic. With newly acquired powers he called for an even stricter implementation of the ECQ. He had a message for anyone who intended to replicate the behavior of the San Roque residents: “I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there’s violence and your lives are in danger: shoot them dead.”

Taking his cue, the police declared they will stop issuing warnings and will simply arrest even low-level violators of the quarantine rules. At a police press briefing in early April, arrests were shown to have spiked during the quarantine, with the cops nabbing an average of more than a thousand people per day nationwide. 

Since then there have been reports and sightings of extreme prejudice in the operations of law enforcement. Stories such as those of a mentally ill Army veteran who was shot dead for being outside and a fish vendor severely beaten for not wearing a face mask have become commonplace. Arrests have also extended to anyone caught criticizing the administration’s perceived failures during the pandemic. Police have begun to target relief workers and even people posting unflattering opinions about Duterte online. The biggest single haul of the crackdown came on Labor Day, May 1. Ninety-two individuals across five cities were imprisoned while either engaging in feeding programs or joining online protests. 

Prominent human rights group KARAPATAN slammed the mass arrests, saying the regime should refocus its efforts. The group’s secretary general Cristina Palabay said, “The Duterte government and its minions [are] exploiting quarantine measures to harass, vilify, and rabidly arrest — even kill — activists. Instead of responding to the socioeconomic needs of the people, these mass arrests will only worsen the plight of the poor. Those who are helping the poor are being put in jail.” 

Palabay pointed to the murder of relief worker Jory Porquia the day before Labor Day by suspected elements of law enforcement as the backdrop of her comments.

In the last week of March, Duterte announced a larger economic relief package of nearly $4 billion, primarily for low-income families, dubbed the Social Amelioration Program (SAP). Plagued by chronic procedural problems in the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there are constant complaints of the SAP not reaching its intended beneficiaries and the allocations per town being far too small to do much good.

Former DSWD chief and now of the broad network CURE COVID (Citizen’s Urgent Response to End COVID-19) Judy Taguiwalo criticized the use of an outdated census to guide the state’s relief effort. She told The Diplomat, “Limiting the financial assistance to a list based on the 2015 census created major delays in the distribution. They should instead opt for a universal approach, extending financial assistance to everyone in need throughout the process. People are lining up under the heat of the summer sun desperate for assistance. Maybe social workers can go house to house, but they are also lacking PPEs and working long hours. Going to every door also requires a universal approach. The state should welcome the involvement of civil society groups and the private sector in the relief effort and reduce obstacles of various permits for their participation.”

Robert Lunzaga, a community leader in the province of Bulacan from the national urban poor group Kadamay, told The Diplomat that not only were SAP allotments too few for their predominantly impoverished town but those aligned with organizations critical of the administration were bullied by the authorities. He was brought to the local military encampment and told to cease all political activity, surrender to the government, and only then would they receive any aid. Other locals have recounted similar stories. Lunzaga adds, “We have four barangays (towns) in the Pandi municipality, each with more than a thousand poor families. But each barangay has only been allotted around 400 slots for the SAP. Many people are desperate and fighting over aid … just to get $100 to $150.”

To deal with the inadequacies, Congress’ Makabayan (Patriotic) bloc, composed of several opposition parties, has forwarded a bill to expand the SAP in the hopes of reaching out to more Filipinos in need. They particularly noted that 1.7 million workers have been excluded from aid programs. 

“It is reprehensible that while Duterte’s economic managers discuss the need for economic recovery from the COVID-19 fallout. Filipino workers who make the daily operation of transport systems, factories, and malls possible are still largely left out in the government’s aid efforts,” said the coalition in a joint statement. 

The whole world is looking forward to a return to some semblance of normalcy. But what makes the Philippine government one of the worst examples of handling the pandemic is its incompetence married with militarism threaded throughout its responses. The backlash facing Filipinos now and after the quarantine is quite a distressing picture. It is a bleak one marred by a totalitarian streak and the people’s increased realization that the state is more intent on filling jails and the pockets of Chinese businesses than starving stomachs. 

Source: https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/the-philippines-pandemic-response-a-tragedy-of-errors/

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