With public transpo seen to be swarmed, quarantine enforcers discourage flocking back to hometowns
File photo dated March 16 shows throngs of commuters waiting for a ride after public transportation was largely suspended at the onset of the community quarantine prompted by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

With public transpo seen to be swarmed, quarantine enforcers discourage flocking back to hometowns

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - May 12, 2020 - 1:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — The enforcement arm of the country's COVID-19 task force has cautioned the public, particularly those who were caught stranded in Metro Manila, against unnecessary travel, including flocking back to their hometowns over concerns that this would only worsen the spread of the new pathogen. 

This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday announced that he approved the recommendation to extend anew the enhanced community quarantine hoisted over Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City until May 31.

Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who heads the Joint Task Force Covid Shield (JTF COVID Shield), or the quarantine enforcement arm of the COVID-19 task force, highlighted the danger that travelers going back to their homes could unknowingly bring the new pathogen to their hometowns.

According to Eleazar, the JTF COVID Shield is expecting a possible exodus of people to their hometowns, especially those who were trapped in their workplaces and rented houses and boarding houses over misinterpretation that the lifting of ECQ also allows them to go back.

RELATED: ‘2 million commuters to swarm public transport after ECQ’ | One-meter distancing to be imposed in public transpo under GCQ — DILG

“There is already a guideline issued regarding our Locally Stranded Individuals (LSI) so we encourage our kababayan to be aware and follow it because they may interpret the lifting of the ECQ as a go-signal for them to go back to their hometowns. We will not allow that,” said Eleazar.

“If they insist on returning without following the protocol that would be issued on this, then this will defeat the purpose of the quarantine measures that the government has implemented since March 17. All the sacrifices that we made will be futile,” he added.

At the Senate Committee on Public Services’ inquiry into the resumption of mass transportation under general community quarantine, LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra said that the board estimated around 2.4 million commuters would return to public transportation, effectively clogging up the system's already-limited capacity. 

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases' existing protocols require that travelers who intend to go back to their hometowns secure clearance from the health offices of the LGUs they were stranded in certifying that they underwent necessary quarantine procedures and are clear of the coronavirus.

According to Eleazar, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, chief of the national police, also instructed police commanders to coordinate with local government units to determine the number of LSIs in their respective localities.

Eleazar in an earlier statement also said that the public should expect heightened police visibility should the shift to GCQ in some areas take place. 

RELATED: 'Strict measures are the new normal' under General Community Quarantine

He added that strict police enforcement measures would be the "new normal" for the time being. 

As of Friday, there were 131 confirmed patients of the new pathogen among the ranks of the national police. 

On Monday evening, the health department also reported that the number of cases nationwide rose to 11,086. 

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