THE Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious (IATF) on Wednesday released improved guidelines in the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed to curb the growing number of COVID-19 patients.
Primary in the guidelines was the strict observance of a mandatory home quarantine for everyone “to contain the spread of the virus and prevent the virus from transferring from one place to another through a mobile host or carrier.”
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, concurrent IATF spokesman, reiterated people in Luzon should remain indoors during the month-long ECQ to contain the spread of COVID virus.
Nograles, during the daily “Laging Handa” public briefing on Wednesday morning and the press conference late Tuesday night in Malacanang, appealed to the public to sacrifice and do their share.
“Mga kababayan. Kung magkaniya-kaniya po tayo, hindi tayo magtatagumpay. ‘Ika nga ni Pangulong Duterte: ‘Together we can beat COVID-19, together we heal as one.’ (My fellow countrymen, if we act individually we will not succeed. Like what President Duterte always say, ‘Together we can beat COVID-19, together we heal as one.’),” Nograles said.
Nograles called special attention to the “most vulnerable sectors,” which include senior citizens or those aged 60 years old and above; those with pre-existing medical conditions like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer among others; and pregnant women, to strictly comply with the home quarantine directive.
He added that, save for a few exceptions, government had suspended classes at all levels in both private and public schools, public and mass transportation had been stopped, and work in government and the private sector has likewise been suspended to compel everyone to stay home.
Under the updated guidelines, those allowed to leave their homes and go to work include members and personnel of the PNP, AFP, other uniformed personnel; those involved in health work, border control, emergency and other mission-critical services, and media.
Only one person per household is allowed to go out to buy and access basic necessities from groceries, drug stores, wet markets, as well as banks and remittance centers. Barangay leaders are tasked to ensure compliance with the directive.
Nograles reminded individuals who will leave their homes to bring their identification cards, proof of residence, certification of employment, or delivery receipts for those transporting goods to and from the quarantine area, and authorizations and certifications, if applicable, issued by authorized government offices.
He discouraged persons exempted from the work suspensions and allowed to go out to refrain from bringing along non-exempted individuals with them.
He also advised everyone not to loiter, nor intimidate or resist persons of authorities especially when stopped by authorities.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday night emphasized workers who are unable to report for work due to suspended public transportation cannot be penalized.
“Kung ayaw payagan ng employers, pwedeng hindi pumasok ang manggagawa…They are under enhanced community quarantine, they are excused (If employers won’t allow them to be absent, the workers can still not report to work…They are under enhanced community quarantine, they are excused),” said Bello who acknowledged that there are still some employers and companies that require their employees to come to the office.
Bello said government has set up an amelioration program that can be tapped to provide for workers who are forced to go on flexible work schedules, on forced leaves and those affected by a no-work-no pay scheme.
Nograles assured the public that all basic utilities and services would continue to operate including water, electricity, internet, and telecommunications.
Critical services like garbage collection, funeral and interment services, and gasoline stations should also remain open.
Nograles said capital market and trading were expected to reopen on Wednesday and maintain at least a skeletal team to continue operations.
On Tuesday night, Nograles said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Securities and Exchange Commission, Philippine Stock Exchange, Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corporation were expected to resume operations on March 18 after they shut down on Tuesday.
He said the shutdown of trading, the first in the Asian region due to COVID-19, was not unusual since it happens whenever there are calamities or emergencies.
Nograles reiterated that business process outsourcing (BPO) and export-oriented establishments would be allowed to operate as long as workers are provided temporary housing by their companies.
Casinos, off-shore gaming operators (POGOs) and other gaming establishments were also suspended during the month-long quarantine period.
Nogarles said hotels and similar establishments are barred from accepting any new bookings during the quarantine period but can continue to accommodate guests who have existing booking accommodations as of March 17 or have existing long-term leases.
“No new booking accommodations shall be permitted. Provided further that in all of the foregoing, hotel operations shall be limited to the provision of basic lodging to guests,” he said.
TRANSPORT AND CARGOES
Nograles said restricted movement has been ensured with the ban imposed on all public transportation, including tricycles, pedicabs, taxis/Grab, jeepneys, buses, and the Metro Rail Transit/ Light Rail Transit during the quarantine period.
He said the national government, local government units, and exempted companies will provide point-to-point transportation service for individuals who are authorized to work, especially health workers.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) will provide transportation to and from airports especially for workers who will leave the country for work abroad.
Nograles said the movement of cargo by air, land or sea will remain unhampered during the quarantine period.
He said no cargo trucks and vans should be blocked and prevented from entering the ports, expressways or highways.
On Tuesday night, he said accredited vehicles or those marked with logos form the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority vehicles will be deployed to provide ferry services for authorized individuals and cargoes.
Nogarles said that under the improved guidelines, Filipino overseas workers and foreigners who have confirmed international flights will be allowed to fly out of Luzon airports anytime during the ECQ period. Those travelling abroad may only leave their homes or hotels if they are to depart within 24 hours.
Government is also not allowing any send-off parties to accompany departing passengers, who can only be accompanied by one companion.
Nograles said Filipino tourists or those going on tours abroad will not be allowed to leave the country for now.
Nograles said Filipinos abroad, along with their spouses and kids, and those who are permanent residents of the Philippines are allowed to return to country.
Those arriving to Luzon and returning from China, Hong Kong and Macau, however, shall be subject to a14-day quarantine in a common quarantine facility, while those coming from other countries, via Luzon, are compelled to follow mandatory home quarantine rules.