INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said the improper implementation of lockdown protocols by local government units (LGUs) could be causing the alarming spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country.
Año, a key member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, made the pronouncement a day after the Department of Health (DOH) recorded an all-time high single-day 2,434 increase in COVID-19 cases on Sunday, which brought the country’s total cases to 44,254.
Yesterday, the DOH reported 2,099 more infections – broken down to 1,258 “fresh” or newly validated and 841 reported late cases – bringing the total to 46,333.
Año said the rise in positive cases was expected due to the downgrade in the classification of community quarantines, including Metro Manila which accounts for nearly half of the COVID-19 cases throughout the country.
The DILG chief also said that the opening of many business establishments could have contributed to the growing cases.
On whether the easing of the stay-at-home restrictions was premature, Año said: “Well, not really because we implemented localized and focused lockdowns, meaning to say we got the granular data and then we impose the lockdown on those specific areas.”
“It is really the implementation that we have to look at, baka kasi hindi properly at nakakalusot pa rin (It is really the implementation that we have to look at. These might not be properly implemented and some are able to sneak out),” he said.
Año stressed that in specialized, hard or localized lockdowns, local government units should be very strict and make sure that no one is allowed to get out of from the municipality, barangay or subdivision that is closed down. Only health workers or authorized persons can leave their houses.
“As we see it, may mga LGUs na hindi properly ‘yung pagkaka-implement ng lockdown, may mga nakakalabas pa rin so ‘yun ang aming tinitingnan ngayon (As we see it, there are LGUs that are not properly implementing the lockdown because some are still able to sneak out. That is what we are looking at),” he said.
Año said the government has organized teams composed of health and law enforcement experts to supervise the implementation of the hard or localized lockdowns.
The DILG chief said he was alarmed by last Sunday’s increase in COVID-19 cases “but we are ready for this. This is somehow expected with our (decision) to loosen some of the restrictions.”
“We are alarmed because supposedly dapat ay mami-maintain o mapapaba na natin pero accordingly marami talagang pasaway (We are alarmed because we are supposed to be maintaining or reducing the cases but many are really stubborn),” he said, referring to quarantine violators.
While cases continue to climb, Año said the country intends to further open up the economy.
“In the coming days because of our intention to open up the economy, it will really boil down to the individual persons on how will we adhere, comply, obey with the minimum health standards,” he said.
“Our direction is really moving towards that and then so be it but we will make sure strict compliance or obedience,” he added.
The DILG-Napolcom Center, which houses the DILG and National Police Commission, was placed on a seven-day lockdown starting Monday, according to Interior undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya.
Malaya said the decision was made after undersecretary for operations Epimaco Densing announced on Saturday that he was infected with the virus.
But while locked down, Malaya said the DILG will continue with its operations as staff will shift to a work from home set-up. He said the DILG will continue to receive and release documents at the building’s ground floor lobby.
“We understand that DILG is a frontline agency in this pandemic so we cannot stop operations. So our officials will still continue to work at our extension or other offices outside of the DILG-Napolcom Center or from their homes while all our attached agencies are fully operational, especially the PNP, BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology), and BFP (Bureau of Fire Protection),” said Malaya.
“The department remains steadfast in our commitment of capacitating and nurturing local government units, and supervising public order and safety institutions even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Malaya.
On the other hand, the Hall of Justice building in Naga City, Cebu was shut down on Monday and will be physically closed for 14 days after a court employee tested positive for the virus.
Executive Judge Dennis Larrobis said the employee of RTC Branch 76 tested positive for the virus during a swab test, thus prompting the temporary closure of the building.
“This is for the protection of all Hall of Justice building occupants, users, clients and all concerned,” Larrobis said in a memorandum.
He said Branch 76 was already coordinating with the city government for the disinfection of the entire building and its vicinity as a preventive measure against the deadly virus.
He added that contact tracing and testing of the direct and close contact of the employee is already being done.
“During the temporary closure, RTC Branch 76 and the Metropolitan Trial Court of Naga City, Cebu are reminded to observe the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for the online filing of complaint and or information, posting of bail, work from home arrangements of court personnel and videoconferencing hearings, if applicable, to ensure that court operations will go unhampered,” Larrobis said. – With Aszhel Hachero and Gerard Naval