This photo taken on February 14, 2020 shows people wearing face masks walking in front of an altar in the Binondo district of Chinatown in Manila.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
It’s safe to organize, attend public gatherings despite COVID-19 scare — DOH, DILG, DOT
Rosette Adel ( - February 18, 2020 - 4:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism on Tuesday released a joint statement announcing that “it is safe to organize and attend public gatherings, meetings and festivals as long as all precautionary measures identified by the DOH are observed.”

The joint statement, signed by three Cabinet secretaries, is a clarification of the DOH’s advisory on concerts and other public events and gatherings issued last February 7.

Health measures in place

“The guidelines in handling guests in tourism enterprises during this global emergency are being implemented in hotels and resorts around the country even before the temporary travel ban, and facilities are equipped with infrared thermometers and hand sanitizers,” the agencies’ joint statement read.

“The safety of the public, especially our tourists and employees in the tourism sector, remains the priority of the Philippine government,” they added.

The DOH earlier recommended cancellation of big events or mass gatherings such as concerts, among others, “until further notice” due to the risk of spreading the risk of spreading coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

It also warned the public against organizing or going to events with a huge number of attendees and advised them to practice self-protection measures.

For its part, the Department of Labor and Employment likewise advised workers who are sick to stay home and to avoid crowds.

Prior to the DOH’s advisory, however, several concert and event organizers have already announced cancellations or postponements amid the COVID-19 scare.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier declared temporary travel ban to China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The travel ban on Taiwan was lifted Friday.

These travel restrictions, however, are seen to threaten the tourism in the country.

Follow DOH's guidelines, event organizers told

Despite this, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said “the clarification bodes well for the tourism industry” citing that that the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) sector is a huge contributor of tourism revenues and jobs.  

“The MICE business has a long value chain involving the accommodation, transportation, food, recreation and retail sectors.  It is critical that MICE events already firmed up for the year continue to be mounted with the DOH protocols strictly heeded,” Puyat said.

Following the clarification, Puyat encouraged event planners and organizers “to be more circumspect and to implement the guidelines prescribed by the DOH.”

“Equally important is the role of the DILG and the local government units in enforcing and monitoring the implementation of the said guidelines to ensure the safety of our guests,” she added.

'Nationwide shopping sale to push through'

In a separate television interview, Puyat revealed that the country would hold a “nationwide shopping malls” sale in the whole month of March to attract local and foreign tourists.

Puyat said this was planned months ago and added that the sale would proceed in accordance with the DOH’s health guidelines.

"Again, with the Department of Health, as long as precautionary measures are in place it's okay to have that nationwide sale," the tourism chief said in an interview with ANC.

The DOT also earlier announced that the tourism sector agreed to lower rates of tour packages, flights and accommodations amid the coronavirus threat.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 3, 2020 - 12:58pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

April 3, 2020 - 12:58pm

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. assures the public that they will shoulder the full cost of treatment for all COVID-19 patients until April 14, 2020.

"The reason for this accommodation window is due to the novelty and the wide range of severity of the disease in the country for which no existing case rate or package based on accepted protocols has yet been established," it says in a statement.

Philhealth says they will issue a new set of guidelines after the final protocol is established.

April 3, 2020 - 10:22am

The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution calling for "international cooperation" and "multilateralism" in the fight against COVID-19, in the first text to come out of the international body since the pandemic's outbreak.

The resolution, which was approved by consensus, also stresses "the need for full respect for human rights" and that "there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic." — AFP

April 3, 2020 - 8:04am

The cruise ship Zaandam, which has dozens of ill passengers on board and was not allowed to dock in several South American countries, arrivsd Thursday in port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The liner was finally cleared for docking after long negotiations between Holland America Line, local and state officials, and the US Coast Guard, to ensure the safe disembarkation of the healthy — and the sick. — AFP

April 2, 2020 - 5:02pm

The Department of Health confirms 11 COVID-19 patients have died in the Philippines, raising the total number of fatalities to 107.

The Philippines also recorded 322 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 2,633.

As of Thursday afternoon, one additional patient recovered from the deadly virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 51.

April 2, 2020 - 3:52pm

The Department of Foreign Affairs through the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs has facilitated the repatriation of 900 Filipino seafarers of the Norwegian Dawn and Star, and MSC Armonia, Meraviglia, Seaside and Divina Cruise ships from Miami, Florida on Thursday morning.

All repatriated seafarers will undergo mandatory quarantine as precautionary measure before they go home. 

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