Mayors want ‘hybrid’ NCR quarantine

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    METRO Manila mayors want a “hybrid” community quarantine in the National Capital Region (NCR) which will incorporate strict social health protocols but allow freer economic activities, National Task Force on COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

    Galvez said metro mayors want to retain the current general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila, which provides for stringent health protocols such as the observance of social distancing and wearing of facemasks and imposes limitations on people movement outside of homes.

    But at the same time, Galvez said local government executives also want to keep businesses to continue operating under more relaxed guidelines to revive local economies.

    Galvez said that during the meeting between the Metro Manila mayors and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the local government officials recommended the retention of the current quarantine level, which is strict on the social aspect but more relaxed in dealing with the economic aspect.

    “Mayroon pa silang recommendation na parang hybrid ang recommendation… ang hinihiling po nila ay magkaroon na parang stricter ang control but we can open iyong other economic activity kaya nga tinatawag nilang parang hybrid (They have a recommendation, they recommended a hybrid quarantine…They asked for a stricter control but we can open other economic activity, that’s why it is called a hybrid)” he said.

    NCR is under the general community quarantine (GCQ) until July 15 where certain establishments and public transportation have already been allowed to operate at limited capacity. The public, though, is still advised to stay home, especially the elders, the minors, the pregnant and those with health conditions, and to observe minimum health standards like hand washing and sanitation, wearing of face masks and social distancing.

    Galvez said the IATF and the LGU officials recognized that there are areas that recorded a spike of cases and are even expected to have an escalation of infection which is why “they (Metro Manila mayors) are recommending to maintain their community quarantine because they also saw that the hospitals in Manila are nearing their full capacity.”

    Health undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said based on the Department of Health’s data, critical bed capacity especially for intensive care units (ICU) of many hospitals in Metro Manila are now at 70 percent capacity or the “danger zone.”

    Hospitals, including private ones, are required to provide 30 percent of its bed capacity for COViD-19 patients. Severe and critical patients stay in hospitals while mild and asymptomatic ones stay at government and quarantine and isolation facilities.

    President Duterte is expected to announce on Wednesday if there would be changes in the current community quarantine status of different cities, provinces and regions.

    The IATF met on Monday to continue discussions on the quarantine status and its recommendations, among others. It will again meet on Tuesday to discuss appeals that maybe filed by LGUs about the recommended quarantine status covering them.

    The IATF will submit its final recommendation to the President on Wednesday.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said there is no final decision yet on the quarantine levels but all decisions would be based on the case doubling rate and critical care capacity of the LGUs in the affected areas. The economic aspect would also be considered.

    He said based on the situation in NCR, it is not likely to result in the relaxing of restrictions.

    “While there is still no decision, the President will make the decision, the data would be considered if we would loosen the restrictions but at this point, data does not indicate that we can relax, at least in Metro Manila),” he said.

    LOCKDOWNS

    Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco yesterday said he will place the city under a 14-day lockdown to prevent non-essential travel of residents.

    In an interview over radio dzBB, Tiangco said businesses will be allowed to continue operations and authorized persons, such as frontliners and those who need to report for work, will be permitted to leave their homes during the lockdown period.

    He said the lockdown will be implemented as residents remain defiant of existing quarantine protocols, noting that many children have been seen playing on the streets despite the prohibition against persons below 21 years old from leaving their homes. Last

    “The lockdown will be for the residents of Navotas, but businesses will be allowed to operate and those who have work will be allowed to leave their homes. We will be strict with leisure activities, exercises, and the likes,” Tiangco said.

    Tiangco said the lockdown will start as soon as police augmentation forces arrive in the city.

    He said parents whose children will be caught playing on the streets will now be fined from P300 to P1,000.

    Meanwhile, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang issued a memorandum late Sunday ordering the whole Centennial Building which houses the anti-graft court’s seven division and support offices closed after two employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

    “This step is necessary to enable the Sandiganbayan to conduct an immediate and thorough disinfection of its entire building and to conduct contact tracing/monitoring of the health of the Court’s employees,” Cabotaje-Tang said in the memo.

    However, Tang clarified that the entire workforce of the court will continue to attend to pending cases under “alternative work arrangements.”

    During the Metro Manila-wide quarantine, the court continued hearing urgent motions where applicable through electronic platforms and allowed submission of pleadings and other documents electronically.

    Three independent court informants said the Sandiganbayan justices held an online conference for several hours until late Sunday evening to discuss their options after the Supreme Court turned down their request to be allowed to go on a 14-day lockdown.

    Court employees who gave their reactions on condition of anonymity admitted they are worried for their personal safety and those of their families since one of the two infected personnel, a court stenographer, used the Sandiganbayan shuttle service reporting for work and going home. The vehicle is a bus carrying several other employees.

    The second COVID 19 case is a legal officer assigned to the chamber of one of the senior justices of the anti-graft court.

    At the start of the quarantine period in Metro Manila, the court required a mandatory rapid testing of all employees, but this policy was revised after the supply of the test kits ran out.

    The revised policy was contained in a memorandum issued last June 8, this time only requiring that confidential personnel entering the justices’ chambers be tested on a “voluntary basis.”

    The same memo said the mandatory rapid testing will continue once additional test kits are procured.

    Also, the Office of the Solicitor General as well as Branch 30 of the Metropolitan Trial Court Manila and the MeTC of the Office of the Clerk of Court Manila (OCC) have gone on lockdown after several of their employees tested positive for COVID-19.

    “Effective immediately, I will lock the OSG premises down until further notice,” the OSG said, adding that no one will be allowed to enter the office premises except for employees of the financial management service and sanitation workers.

    Likewise, no documents will be received or sent out until further notice.

    Last June 30, the OSG also closed its premises after one of its employee tested positive for COVID-19 during a rapid antibody test.

    The OSG said they are doing contact tracing and monitoring of employees who had close contact with the patients.

    Meanwhile, Manila MeTC Executive Judhe Carissa Anne Manook Frondoza said the lockdown on Branch 30 will last until July 24 while that of the OCC will be lifted on July 22.

    Branch 30 is located at the Manila City Hall while the OCC is at Parkview Plaza Building.

    Manook-Frondozo said an employee each of Branch 30 and the OCC clerk tested positive for the virus.

    She said the court employee who tested positive last reported for work on July 10 while that of the OCC reported on July 8.

    “Employees of the offices affected must undergo self-quarantine within 14 days from direct exposure to the COVID-19 positive employees, to minimize or avoid contact with the public during the said period and to conduct contact tracing of all the persons they have come in contact with at the court’s premises for the last two weeks,” Manook-Frondozo said.

    She said Branch 30 may conduct hearings through videoconferencing while the OCC may receive applications for bail and other urgent matters online.

    Likewise, Manila City RTC Branch 31 has been physically closed until July 26 after one of staff also tested positive for the virus, according to Executive Judge Virgilio Macaraig.

    Likewise, the Muntinlupa City Branch 205 shall be closed from July 13 to 15 while court employees who came in contact with a COVID-positive employee have been advised to go on self quarantine until July 20.

    Muntinlupa Executive Judge Antonietta Medina said the July 13-15 physical closure of Branch 205 is reckoned from the 14 days quarantine–July 1- which is last day of exposure of the court with the COVID-positive employee.

    PNP FRONTLINERS

    Police chief Archie Gamboa ordered his men to be extra vigilant in the wake of three attacks on police-frontliners last week.

    “Following three recent incidents of armed atrocities against police frontline personnel engaged in public safety and law enforcement operations, I am alerting anew all police regional offices to implement security measures against possible hostilities by threat groups and lawless elements,” Gambo said in a statement.

    Gamboa was referring to three attacks on police frontliners which happened last week.

    The first incident was a roadside bomb attack near the provincial police headquarters in Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao last Thursday which was followed by an ambush on police responders, which killed Police Master Sgt. Antonio Balasa, and a civilian identified only as Bobby.

    Last Friday, suspected NPA rebels attacked a quarantine control point (QCP) in Concepcion, Misamis Occidental which left four cops wounded but not without killing a rebel. The cops were manning the QCP in barangay Putongan when fired upon by the communist rebels.

    The police officers defended their position until reinforcements arrived.

    Last Sunday, Police Capt. Erwin Hernandez was on board a car driven by Police Cpl. Mark Russel Evangelista when fired upon by still unidentified men in barangay Abongan in Taytay, Palawan. Both cops were unhurt.

    Gamboa said the PNP strongly condemns these incidents.

    “These incidents will not diminish our resolve to enforce the law and protect the communities against crime and lawlessness,” Gamboa said. – With Raymond Africa, Peter Tabingo and Ashzel Hachero