7-hour curfew imposed in Metro

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    File photo: Lockdown in Barangay 351 Zone 35 in Manila.

    Checkpoints to be set up to control movements

    BY NOEL TALACAY

    METRO Manila residents are again prohibited from leaving their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. as local chief executives yesterday agreed to impose unified curfew hours in the region’s 16 cities and one municipality amid the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the National Capital Region.

    The uniform curfew took effect yesterday, according to Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez, who is the chairman of the Metro Manila Council.

    Olivarez said the restriction is necessary to stop residents from going out of their homes for non-essential trips, especially during the night.

    “One of the health protocols that we have revised was the curfew hours. There should only be one policy to be followed in terms of curfew hours because the cities in Metro Manila are interconnected. We agreed to have the curfew hours from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.,” Olivarez said in a radio interview.

    Olivarez said exempted from the curfew hours are Authorized Persons Outside Residents (APOR), call center employees and frontliners.

    Metro Manila cities currently follow different curfew hours. Muntinlupa City and Caloocan City are imposing curfew hours from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. while curfew in Malabon City, Navotas City, Quezon City, and Marikina City is from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

    On the other hand, Pateros towns and San Juan City are implementing curfew hours of 12 midnight to 3 a.m.; 12 midnight to 4 a.m. for Valenzuela City, Pasay City, Parañaque City, Taguig City, Las Piñas City, Makati City, and Mandaluyong City; and 12 midnight to 5 am for Manila City and Pasig City.

    Yesterday, the city government of San Juan started imposing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, as authorized under Executive Order No. FMZ-072 series 2021.

    Residents who will violate the curfew hours will face criminal charges under RA 11332 for non-cooperation during a public health event. They will likewise be fined between P20,000 to P50,000 and be imprisoned from one to six months.

    Exempted from the San Juan curfew are medical frontliners, police and military personnel, employees of local and national government offices, public utility drivers, delivery services, and individuals with medical emergencies.

    The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has earlier made a call to Metro mayors to enforce uniform curfew hours to prevent confusion within the public.

    Olivarez said checkpoints would again be set up in key Metro Manila city borders to control the movement of people.

    Police officers and local health executives who will man the checkpoints will ensure that health protocols are followed by motorists, commuters and those who go out of their homes, the mayor said.

    Teams would also be dispatched to check the compliance to health protocols such as the mandatory wearing of face masks and shields and social distancing of business establishments such as wet and dry markets and shopping malls.

    Olivarez said Metro mayors have also agreed not to impose a region-wide lockdown but instead, would implement granular lockdowns when and where necessary to contain community transmissions of the coronavirus.

    He also said Metro mayors will sit down again and revisit existing health protocols to review which needs to be improved. “Some health protocols are not being properly implemented anymore. We need to review them,” he added.

    Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano said he will not implement a city-wide lockdown despite the spike in COVID-19 cases in the region.

    Targeted lockdowns will be imposed on areas or barangays where there will be a clustering of cases, Cayetano said, as he stressed: “We are choosing not to close the economy but we will strengthen our health protocols against COVID-19.”

    In Antipolo, the operating and delivery rooms of the Antipolo hospital annex IV is temporarily closed 5 medical frontliners and midwives were reported to have been infected with the virus. The facilities will reopen on March 15.

    The Commission on Elections last night announced it will shut down all its offices based in Intramuros, Manila beginning today until March 24.

    In a statement, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said their head office as well as the Offices of the Regional Election Director of National Capital Region (NCR), Region IV-A, and Region IV-B will be closed for two weeks “to prevent the further spread of the virus, in view of reports of documented recent transmission of the COVID-19 among employees.”

    In Manila, the city government yesterday started distributing food boxes to residents of two barangays that are under a four-day lockdown starting midnight today until midnight of Sunday.

    Aside from barangays 351 in San Lazaro, Tayuman and 725 in Malate, similar food boxes will also be distributed to tenants of two hotels – the Malate Bay View Mansion and Hop Inn Hotel both in barangay 699, which have been locked down after several cases were detected in the rental buildings.

    Each food box contains three kilos of rice, 16 pieces of canned goods, and eight sachets of coffee.

    National Task Force Against the coronavirus disease (NTF-COVID 19) deputy implementer, and concurrent testing czar, Vivencio Dizon urged hospitals, especially in highly urbanized areas, to increase their current hospital bed allocations for COVID-19 patients amid the rise in cases in several areas.

    Dizon, in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, noted that some hospitals have reduced their hospital bed allocations for COVID-19 patients in the past months when the number of cases started to go down.

    He said instead of the 20 percent hospital bed allocation, mandated by the Department of Health (DOH) at the height of the pandemic last year, some hospitals reduced it to 10 percent to accommodate more non-COVID patients.

    Dizon said that while the current 3,000 to 3,500 cases being recorded by the DOH now is still lower than the 4,500 cases at the height of the pandemic last year, which was during the months of July and August, “it does not mean that the country should wait for the number to be higher to act.”

    Interior undersecretary for operations Epimaco Densing III said the cities of Manila, San Juan and Taguig and the town of Pateros are the only LGUs in Metro Manila that are complying with the World Health Organization and Department of Health standards of 1:800 contact tracer-population ratio.

    “Sorry to the 13 cities who were not mentioned but you are the exemption who didn’t hire (enough contact tracers),” added Densing, referring to the cities of Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon, and Valenzuela.

    Densing said some LGUs outside Metro Manila which are not also compliant with the WHO and DOH standards should also hire additional contact tracers which are vital in tracing cases and suspected cases of COVID-19 infections.

    Densing said the LGUs cannot invoke lack of funds as reason for their failure to hire enough contact tracers because funds have been downloaded to them under their 2021 budget.

    Also, he said these LGUS have Internal Revenue Allotments to spend.

    PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas said more policemen will be deployed in public areas, adding that they have observed increasing number of people in areas like malls and restaurants quarantine restrictions were relaxed.

    Meanwhile, with 118 cases of the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus detected in the country, IATF Technical Working Group on Data Analytics member Dr. John Wong warned that the Philippines may see a nine-fold increase in cases if it becomes the dominant variation.

    In a televised public briefing, Wong said: “If the UK variant becomes the dominant strain, which means it accounts for more than 50 percent of our cases, we can have nine times more cases after a month.”

    In terms of becoming the prevalent variety of COVID-19, he said they are more concerned with the UK variant more than the South African variant because the South African variant makes the virus more resistant to the vaccines, while the UK variant increases transmissibility.

    Earlier, the OCTA Research Team projected that the country could see 5,000 to 6,000 new COVID-19 cases a day by the end of March if the current trend continues.

    OCTA opined that the surge in cases could be related to the presence of new COVID-19 variants in the country, particularly those of the UK and South Africa. – With Christian Oineza, Ashzel Hachero, Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Gerard Naval