Task force okays mandatory face mask use, extended market hours

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    THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved the mandatory use of face masks in areas covered by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as part of continuing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVD-19).

    Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Thursday said: “For areas placed under ECQ, the IATF hereby adopts the policy of mandatory wearing by all residents of face masks, ear-loop masks, indigenous, reusable or do-it-yourself masks, face shields, handkerchiefs, or such other protective equipment that can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19, whenever allowed to go out of their residences.”

    Nograles, who is also the spokesman of the IATF-EID, said local government units should issue the necessary directive or ordinance to implement the order, as well as impose penalties as may be appropriate against those who will violate the guideline.

    Nograles said the mandatory wearing of masks shall be observed during the duration of the ECQ in Luzon, which will end at 11:59 p.m. of April 12.

    The task force has yet to decide if there is a need to continue wearing face masks even after the lockdown is lifted.

     12-HOUR FOOD, MEDS STORES

     Nograles urged supermarkets and groceries, drugs stores and pharmacies, agri-fishery supply stores, and wet markets to extend their operating times to 12 hours to give the public longer hours to purchase and secure their needed supplies during the quarantine period.

    He directed LGUs to allow the establishments to operate provided that hygienic protocols, specifically the social distancing measures, are strictly observed.

    In the operation of wet markets, Nograles said LGUs are encouraged to adopt reasonable schemes like “specific daily schedules per sector, barangay, or purok” to ensure that social distancing is observed.

     OFW REPATRIATIONS AND QUARANTINE

     Nograles said the IATF-EID has approved interim guidelines on the repatriation of overseas Filipinos working in cruise ships, which include the updating of existing algorithms for the triage of patients with possible COVID-19 infection in ports of entry.

    He said the measure shall apply to land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated through the efforts of the national government.

    Nograles said the New Clark City Athlete’s Village in Tarlac shall continue to be used as the temporary quarantine facility for repatriated OFWs.

    He said a sub-technical working group (TWG) – composed of representatives from the Departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Tourism (DOT), Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Health (DOH) – will formulate the necessary guidelines to manage and ensure the welfare of repatriated OFWs.

    At the same time, Nograles reminded local executives to refrain from blocking or preventing entry of OFWs who had already completed their 14-day quarantine and have been cleared by health authorities.

    He likewise reminded LGUS to ensure the smooth movement and passage of all cargoes. He said asymptomatic drivers and crews of cargo or service delivery vehicles are not required to undergo mandatory 14-day home quarantine upon their entry or passage through checkpoints.

    Nograles said vehicles, with or without load, are also advised to limit their personnel on board to three.

    “Kailangan pong tuloy-tuloy ang daloy ng mga kargamento, exempted po ang mga ito sa ECQ (We need to ensure the unhampered flow of cargo. These are exempted from the enhanced community quarantine),” he said.

     HOSPITAL COMMUNICATION

     PLDT public affairs head Mon Isberto, during the Laging Handa public briefing, on Thursday said the company will deploy smartphones with “push-to-talk” features as well as launch a COVID-19 hotline for faster communication between health department officials and COVID-19 referral hospitals.

    PLDT along with telecommunication companies Smart and Globe also assured the public f continued services during the Luzon lockdown.

    The telecommunication companies also reminded their subscribers of the moratorium on the payment of their bills during the lockdown.

    Task force okays mandatory face mask use, extended market hours