According to the Department of Health (DOH), the nationwide tally of COVID-19 cases now stands at 684,311, including the 91,754 patients who are currently sick with the respiratory disease. The number of recovered patients, meanwhile, reached 579,518 after 1,072 new coronavirus-positive individuals survived the ailment. But 47 new fatalities pushed the death toll to 13,039.

DOH said the 91,754 active cases represent 13.4 percent of the total case count while recoveries and deaths were 84.7 percent and 1.91 percent, respectively. DOH also said that 97.8 percent of the sum active patients were mild and asymptomatic.

Out of the confirmed cases reported, 54 % are male, with the most affected age group 20-29 years (26 %) followed by the age group 30-39 years (23.6%).  42% of the total number of cases are from the National Capital Region (NCR), followed by CALABARZON (16.6%), Central Visayas (7.4%), Central Luzon (6.7%), Western Visayas (4.3%) while out of the total 13,039 confirmed deaths, 60% are male with the most affected age group over-70 (35.3%) followed by the age group 60-69 years (27.7%).

The 38% of the total number of deaths reported are from the NCR, followed by Central Visayas (12.7%), CALABARZON (12.4%), Central Luzon (7.8%), Western Visayas (5.6%).

With this data, the age groups 20-29 and 30-39 compose the bulk of the employed persons, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III signed Department Order 224, series of 2021, as part of the continuing effort of the government to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 virus in the workplace and cognizant of a large amount of working time indoors and in poorly ventilated spaces, adequate ventilation should be strictly enforced inside the workplace as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID 19 virus.

The new guidelines cover proper ventilation of workplaces in all commercial and industrial establishments, projects, sites, and all other places, where work is being undertaken indoors except health care facilities requiring special considerations in the control of COVID 19. The order include public transport.

The set of guidelines include the installation and utilization of exhaust fans in indoor workplaces, restrooms and water closets; ventilation in air, rail, land, and sea transport, and other measures to improve and maintain the quality of air in the workplace and public transportation.

Adequate ventilation should be strictly enforced inside the workplace, as properly maintained ventilation within a building and other indoor workplaces eliminate contaminated air and reduce the risks of exposure to potentially virus-contaminated air.

For non-air-conditioned spaces, the guidelines recommends maximizing natural ventilation through the use of doors, windows, and other openings. If natural ventilation is not feasible or inadequate, mechanical ventilation shall be provided.

For air-conditioned spaces and Heating, Ventilation, and Air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, the outdoor air supply should conform to the recommended breathing zone ventilation rates for air dilution and comfort control. The said ventilation system is also recommended to be utilized for at least 30 minutes before and after spaces are occupied.

Furthermore, strategies were also recommended for restrooms and water closets which includes making sure that exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied. When toilets/ water closets are used, it is advised to close the toilet bowl seat lid before flushing, if available, to minimize the release of droplets into the air due to flushing.

The proper ventilation in the workplace is as important as the observation of minimum public health standards inside workplaces and public transport which include air, land, rail and sea.

Department Order 224, series of 2021 is also in pursuant to LTFRB MC 2020-061 “ Updated Protocols for PUVs”;

DOH DM2020-0429 “Guidance of Ventilation for COVID 19 Mitigation”; DOLE-DTI JMC 20-04-A and DOLE-DTI Advisory 20-03-2020, the following are advised: provide natural ventilation and access to open air; avoid using the recirculated air option for the vehicle’s ventilation during passenger transport; ensure adequate  ventilation, if possible, by opening windows by at least three(3) inches while in transit, provided that it is safe to do so; ensure regular and proper maintenance of filters of the vehicle air-conditioning units, if applicable; for rail and road transport, impose a minimum of fifteen (15) seconds for the opening of doors for passenger’s exit and entry.

To ensure that the following minimum public health standards are being followed, passengers must wear properly the approved facemasks and face shields at all times; follow strictly the proper and frequent disinfection; before and after completing a route; implement one-seat apart distance for passengers; do not allow passengers to sit beside other, unless plastic barriers are installed between them; and disinfect regularly plastic barriers after each trip or as necessary; post updated covid-19 information through IEC materials; avoid talking (answering phones calls or having conversations) while inside the public transport; prohibit eating and drinking while inside the public transport and do not allow symptomatic passengers on board.

END/Patrick Rillorta