Prepare virus-resistant storm shelters, says House leader
MANILA, Philippines — As the monsoon season blows in, disaster officials should make sure storm shelters will not become hotbeds of the new coronavirus, a senior House leader said on Sunday.
Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel urged the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to create a “new template” for emergency evacuation centers that would be resistant to SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory ailment COVID-19.
“We would urge the NDRRMC, along with the [Inter-Agency Task Force Against COVID-19], to set the standards and guidelines for the new evacuation centers that hopefully will be resistant to the highly contagious respiratory disease,” the Surigao del Sur lawmaker said in a statement.
“We certainly don’t want the centers to become [hotbeds of the new coronavirus], in the event that local governments have to move out communities threatened by storm surges or flooding,” Pimentel said.
“Clearly, our prepandemic temporary shelters — [where] residents are haphazardly jam-packed into school buildings and gymnasiums without adequate precautions in place— won’t work anymore,” he added.
Pimentel said he envisioned evacuation centers to be less congested to allow more distancing between tents and to have segregation areas for the elderly and people suffering from ailments.
“We also expect the centers to have temperature scans, ample hand-washing facilities and personal hygiene provisions, apart from ready supplies of face masks,” he said.
The centers should also be routinely disinfected, have access to personal protective equipment, have a system of contactless distribution of food, and staffed by first responders who can quickly spot possible COVID-19 symptoms, Pimentel said.
He noted that London-based global risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft ranked the Philippines as one of the four countries most vulnerable to natural disasters such as storms, floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis and landslides.
The three others are China, Japan and Bangladesh.
Disaster plans review
The Philippines is visited by at least 20 typhoons a year, many of them just skimming the country’s outer territories but others blowing ashore and causing severe damage, such as Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), which swept across the country’s center in November 2013, leaving more than 6,300 people dead and over 1,700 others missing.
On Friday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government called on provincial and municipal governments to review their civil defenses in preparation for responding to disasters that occur during typhoons such as floods, landslides and outbreaks of disease.
The agency advised the local governments to integrate into their plans public health measures recommended by the Department of Health to stem the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
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