THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved a unified curfew in Metro Manila following the request of local executives for stricter guidelines in the National Capital Region (NCR) even under the less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ).
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be strictly enforced in Metro Manila, except for the cities of Manila, Muntinlupa and Pasig, whose curfews start at 10 p.m.
Curfew time in the three cities will be adjusted within the week through amendments in existing local ordinances, Roque said.
The unified curfew is a complimentary approach to the implementation of localized and granular lockdowns in areas with high cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, during which time the quarantine pass scheme will be enforced to regulate the movement of people in public places.
Parañaque mayor and Metro Manila Council (MMC) chairman Edwin Olivarez said metro mayors have agreed to limit inter-city movement to individuals who are quarantine pass holders, authorized persons outside residence (APOR), and employees of companies already allowed to resume operations.
These individuals will be required to present their identification cards when passing through quarantine control points (QCPs).
Olivarez said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will help police and barangay officials in monitoring people movement in their respective jurisdictions to keep in check the foot traffic of those who are not authorized to go out of their homes.
Roque said that stricter enforcements will be on top of mandatory wearing of face shields and face masks in commercial places, workplaces, especially those located indoors, and public transportation.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield said the first day of the reimplementation of the GCQ in Mega Manila – which is composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite – was without any hassles.
Task force commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said while the number of people in the streets increased due to the easing of the community quarantine status, there were no major untoward incidents reported.
Eleazar said policemen continued to man checkpoints and did foot patrols to ensure people abide by the minimum health protocols of wearing face mask and observing physical distancing.
Eleazar said there are “no significant reports” about people getting arrested by authorities for violation of the quarantine protocols. “We are monitoring, so far there are none,” the official said, adding: “So far so good.”
The National Task Force against COVID-19 has approved back-riding in motorcycles without the use of motorcycle barriers for couples or riders living in the same address.
Roque said back-riding for APORs has also been allowed, but the rider and his passenger are required to put up an Angkas-prototype barrier between them if they live in different addresses.
“The driver may or may not be an APOR. Motorcycles must be privately owned and not for hire and both riders should have face masks and full-face helmets that must be worn at all times while back riding,” he added.
He stressed ride-hailing motorcycles are still not allowed to resume.
NTF chairman Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the task force approved the easing of the restrictions on the recommendation of Eleazar.
Eleazar said the driver and the passenger would have to present proof, like identification cards, if they are checked by policemen who are manning quarantine control points or checkpoints.
“But they have to show proof, either identification card, certification from the barangay or any document showing that both the rider and the back-rider have the same address in order to avoid being apprehended and cited for violation of the rules on pillion-riding,” said Eleazar.
The JTF COVID Shield said a total of 57,973 motorcycle riders were warned and cited for violation of the rules on motorcycle since back-riding was allowed on July 10 until last Tuesday.
Eleazar said local chief executives in modified GCQ areas are given the authority to either adapt the same rules or craft their own rules on motorcycle back-riding.
Roque said mass gatherings, including religious events, of only up to 10 persons would be allowed in GCQ areas; while operations of dine-in restaurants, salons and barbershops and all their services – except full body massages, will be allowed but LGUs will determine their operating capacity.
Establishments offering personal care and aesthetic procedures and services, gyms/fitness studios and sports facilities, testing and tutorial centers, review centers, internet cafes, drive-in cinemas, pet grooming services in the GCQ areas, however, would remain closed.
Also, Roque said health professionals led by doctors and nurses would be doing house to house visits in areas with high cases of COVID-19 and under granular lockdowns to search for symptomatic individuals who will be given swab tests.
He said the police would not be part of the visiting groups but representatives from the Department of Health and the concerned local government unit would be included in the program dubbed as the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE).
Under the program, house-to-house symptom checks would be done along with reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for symptomatic persons. Those who tested positive will be quarantined in isolation centers.
“The police will not have any business going on a house to house,” Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines, adding that the program was based on a practice by the Mumbai government.
He said the house to house visit had been pilot tested during the last two weeks when Metro Manila was under the modified enhanced community quarantine and has so far been proven “hugely successful.”
Roque said apart from the isolation facilities currently used by the government, and the public schools that are on standby, it intends to use more hotel and dormitory beds in case of a shortage in quarantine and isolation centers and a surge of mild infections and asymptomatic cases.
He said the government is waiting for the passage of the Bayanihan 2 law which provides for funds for the refurbishing of public schools that will be converted to isolation facilities. – With Victor Reyes and Noel Talacay