PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night kept Metro Manila under general community quarantine (GCQ) for the entire month of December, effectively limiting people movement and activities during the holiday season.
Also under GCQ from December 1 to 31 are Batangas province, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, Lanao del Sur, Iligan City and Davao City.
The rest of the country is under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
Earlier yesterday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there could be surges in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections if community quarantine restrictions in the country, especially in Metro Manila, are eased this Christmas season.
In a public briefing, Duque said the Department of Health is not in favor of placing Metro Manila under MGCQ.
“If we deescalate further, or ease the restrictions, the contact rate will increase, the transmission rate will go up. It will therefore be possible for transmission to widen and cases to spike,” said Duque, stressing: “We don’t need to be under MGCQ this holiday season.”
The NCR, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, has been under GCQ for several months already. But with the Christmas season just weeks away and the economy attempting to reopen further, there have been some clamor on social media for it to be downgraded to MGCQ.
Instead of MGCQ, Duque called on the public to make modifications in their Christmas celebrations.
Duque said celebrations should just be limited to each household, with other relatives no longer invited to come over.
“Let us not invite other relatives coming from other areas. Because we are not sure if they are free from COVID-19,” said Duque.
Secondly, he said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are discouraged from coming back home to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their families.
“To our OFWs, just opt for other tele-meeting platforms, like Zoom, Webex,” said the health chief.
He also discouraged mass religious gatherings, especially those held indoors.
“Just opt for online masses and don’t go to places where there is mass gathering because the risk of contracting COVID-19 becomes higher,” said the official.
Duque’s call was seconded by the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) saying minimum public health standards must be practiced strictly during the holiday season.
In a virtual press briefing, HPAAC convenor Dr. Antonio Dans said the public should ensure proper air circulation, physical distancing of one meter, wearing face mask and face shield, and 30-minute interactions during get togethers.
“Ideally, we should all keep safe at home and just celebrate with members of our own household. But if gatherings can’t be avoided, let us be guided by ‘Apat Dapat,’ and keep our guard up against the virus,” said Dans.
Meanwhile, the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will bring to the attention of President Duterte the alleged disregard of minimum health protocols during a public event in Bantayan Island in Cebu that was attended by presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
National Task Force against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said they will likewise discuss with the President the protocols and possible actions to be taken if ranking government officials are present in such events.
Galvez, in an interview with ANC, said the strict implementation of safety measures is more challenging outside Metro Manila, which is why organizers such as local government units are always reminded to ensure that minimum health protocols are observed in the events.
He also acknowledged that incidents involving ranking officials may be used by some people as an excuse to forego the protocols. Apart from Roque there had been photos showing disregard of protocols attended by other officials like Sen. Manny Pacquaio.
“I will reserve my comment on that considering we have an IATF discussion on this. We will be having a meeting with the President today. So, I will reserve my comment considering that he’s my fellow secretary,” he said when asked about the inauguration of the Bantayan Island Airport that Roque attended.
Galvez said he himself had attended several events in the past where some protocols like physical distancing and limiting the number of the crowd had been disregarded due to difficulties in crowd control and the cramped small venues.
Roque came under fire after photos from the inauguration event where the people disregarded social distancing went viral in social media platforms. – With Jocelyn Montemayor