NATIONAL Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. yesterday warned coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases can spike anew in provinces under the relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) classification due to complacent and carefree behavior of people living and working in these areas.
Galvez appealed to the public to strictly observe minimum health protocols set by the government to prevent another surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, and which would again prompt Malacañang to impose stricter stay-at-home rules.
Galvez said families should be extra cautious when attending family gatherings like reunions, weddings and birthdays.
He added extra protective strategies should be observed in workplace common spaces such as canteens and smoking areas; and in public transportations or company shuttles.
He also said there are also high risks of transmission and contamination in establishments and businesses that have been allowed to resume their operations in general community quarantine (GCQ) and MGCQ areas.
Galvez said people tend to remove their masks in these places either to eat, smoke and sometimes even talk with each other, which reduces their protection from the virus.
Galvez cited the case of Iloilo City, which he noted was once under the less restrictive lockdowns but is now placed under the “stricter” GCQ where granular lockdowns can be imposed by local government units if there is a spike of COVID-19 cases in a barangay, a district or street.
“As of now, there are many areas under MGCQ that are recording an increase in cases,” he said adding that closely being monitored are Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Iligan Cty, the Lanao provinces and one “area in Luzon.”
He said that apart from relaxed lifestyle and the opening of business and the establishments, the arrival of some locally stranded individuals from Metro Manila and overseas Filipinos from abroad had contributed to the spike of COVID cases in these areas.
Galvez made his comments during the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) Team visit and meeting with the regional counterpart of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that was held in Cotabato City.
BARMM chief minister Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim said all efforts are being undertaken by the region to prevent the spread of disease in the region.
BARMM which is under MGCQ as of August 25 had logged 130 active COVID-19 cases, with a 76 percent recovery rate among positive patients.
Galvez, accompanied by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, had led the turnover of 10,000 test kits, 900 GeneXpert kits, 400 PPE, and 4,000 face masks for the region.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield yesterday disputed reports that travel authority is no longer needed by people who are excluded from the list of Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) when crossing borders.
Task force chief Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the travel authority “has been and will remain a requirement” for individuals who are non-APORs as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
Eleazar said travel passes are need for trips that would involve crossing the border of Metro Manila, of a province or of a highly-urbanized city even if most parts of the country are now already under MGCQ.
The travel authority is issued by the local police once the applicants secure medical certificate from local governments that they are free of the coronavirus disease and have already undergone quarantine.
APOR includes frontliners, including medical and healthcare workers, and workers of industries that have been permitted to operate.
“This clarification is being made after the JTF COVID Shield was informed of disinformation on social media in an apparent attempt to mislead the public that the National Task Force on COVD-19 has already lifted the restrictions for all travels in any part of the country,” said Eleazar.
Eleazar said the “social card” spread by some quarters that travel authority is no longer needed to cross from one local government unit to another is “fake news.”
Eleazar said that for APOR members, there is no need to secure a travel authority as long as their travel is work-related.
Meanwhile, the Pasig City government yesterday locked down for three days its school division office after one of its employees tested positive of COVID-19. The lockdown started yesterday, Wednesday.
School division superintendent Evalou Agustin said the office will resume operations on Monday, August 31.
Augustin said that the male employee did not show any symptoms until swab test results showed that he was positive of the virus. The employee has been brought to a quarantine facility for treatment.
As of August 25, Pasig City has logged 3,516 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 1,719 are active cases. It has recorded 169 deaths and 1,628 recoveries. – With Victor Reyes and Christian Oineza