Government to enforce localized lockdown
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2020 - 12:00am

Duque: Philippines on 2nd wave

MANILA, Philippines — The government may limit lockdowns to barangays or villages with coronavirus cases instead of resorting to widespread community quarantines, to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the national policy on the coronavirus, said the interior department is now coordinating with local government units (LGUs) to implement a localized lockdown.

Yesterday, the city government of Parañaque placed 10 streets in Barangay Baclaran under “calibrated lockdown” for three days until Saturday due to a high number of COVID-19 cases.

“Our way forward is we will localize the national action plan through the LGUs. This is being done by (Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo) Año. He is talking to all LGUs,” Galvez told President Duterte during a meeting on the coronavirus pandemic last Tuesday.

“What we are doing now, Mr. President, is we may no longer declare a lockdown per region, but the lockdown will be imposed by barangay. That means we will narrow the scope. What we will do is we will place barangays with (coronavirus) cases under lockdown to preserve our economic (corridors),” he said.

Duterte reminded the public not to be complacent even if quarantine measures have been eased.

“We are in the process of a gradual opening of the movement of people from their place of residence to the place of work under the general community quarantine,” the President said.

“Since there is already the opening, a gradual opening, we will see if it is doable... If the contamination will be as fast as before and it will continue to infect people allowed to go out, then we’ll have to just go back to the original (quarantine restriction),” he added.

The entire Philippines is under quarantine, with the cities of Cebu and Mandaue under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Metro Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales and Angeles City have been placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) while the rest of the country are under the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

The Philippine economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the first quarter – the first since 1998 during the combined El Niño and Asian financial crisis – as several industries suspended operations to comply with the quarantine measures imposed by the government.

The pandemic has also forced the government to spend billions in aid to low-income households and workers whose livelihood sources were affected by the lockdown.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said under existing guidelines, local governments have the authority to enforce lockdowns.

“LGUs may declare critical areas (barangays or zones) as ECQ,” Roque told The STAR.

Galvez said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases is set to issue guidelines on the localized lockdowns.

“For example, if a barangay has a compound with four affected families, it will be placed under a lockdown. We won’t allow infections in our economic corridor. We have to preserve our economic corridor,” he said.

Galvez said the localized action plan will be implemented with the help LGUs.

He said the IATF will issue guidelines to be followed by the barangays.

Latest report showed that the country has a total of 12,942 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 2,843 recoveries and 837 fatalities.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) ordered mayors to close shopping malls that are not strictly implementing social distancing and other health and safety protocols.

DILG’s Año issued the directive after several malls in Metro Manila were flooded with customers over the weekend when the region transitioned to MECQ after two months of strict lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“The secretary informed all of the mayors that they have the authority to close the malls if needed,” DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya told The Chiefs on Cignal TV’s One News on Tuesday night.

Malaya cited Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor Remulla Jr. who ordered on Monday the temporary closure of all malls and other establishments such as supermarkets and drugstores in the province until social distancing measures are followed.

Problems such as overcrowding at commercial establishments are expected, according to Malaya, as people are intent on going out after?being stuck in their homes for two months.

“Our assessment is that it’s birth pains. People are still adjusting,” he said.

Police officials have since inspected malls and also met with the establishments’ security managers on protocols to prevent the virus from spreading.?The Palace earlier said it is expecting a spike in COVID-19 infections if there are still people who continue to flout social distancing measures and other guidelines.

Bishops’ complaint

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Davao Bishop Romulo Valles urged bishops to stay calm and heed the quarantine rules of the government after some church leaders criticized the IATF for restricting religious activities due to the pandemic.

Valles said he understands that the IATF guidelines may look “impractical or without sense” to them, but they should be reminded that the quarantine guidelines are not meant only for the Catholic Church, but also for other religious groups that were also affected by the two-month lockdown caused by COVID-19.

“During these days, we may hear some guidelines from the government and health authorities regarding our conduct of worship. They may first come across as impractical or without sense to us,” Valle said.

“In this scenario, I believe that the way forward is to patiently ask and seek clarification from the source of these guidelines. It is good to remind ourselves that these guidelines are meant not only for the Catholic Church, but for all men and women and communities of faith who practice different modes of worship and prayer,” he added.

Valle’s statement came a few days after Manila Auxiliary Bishop and apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila Broderick Pabillo took a swipe at the IATF’s “unreasonable” guidelines for religious activities under MECQ and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas.

Pabillo said that the government seemed to have just implied that religious activities are still not allowed when it limited the number of persons to only five in churches under MECQ and 10 for MGCQ areas.

“In the church, we are happy that in both, religious activities are allowed. But at the same time, the limitations they give to religious activities are unreasonable. Five persons for MECQ and 10 persons for MGCQ! It’s just another way of saying that you do not have religious activities,” Pabillo said.

Valles said Church officials should hear Pope Francis in his homily at Casa Santa Marta on April 28 where he asked the public to pray for the grace of prudence and obedience so that the pandemic will be contained even as people are already allowed to go out.

“My sincere thought is, may we try to take the lead in showing the spirit of patience, calmness, understanding, open communication and cooperation in these very trying times as we continue to patiently present our particular concerns to the proper authority,” he said.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said they have not yet started to open their churches for physical masses as they are still waiting for clear guidelines from the government.

Ongtioco said they are ready to abide by the government’s protocol and comply with health measures of the Department of Health (DOH) such as wearing of face masks and observing social distancing should they be allowed to resume masses.

Legazpi Bishop Joel Zamudio Baylon echoed Ongtioco’s sentiments, saying that they have not started opening their churches for physical masses except for clean-up and preparations. Jose Rodel Clapano, Emmanuel Tupas, Robertzon Ramirez

Related video:

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
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