MANILA, Philippines — Authorities are ordering more police on the streets of cities and towns as well as in business districts ahead of the expected easing of more restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
More curbs had been relaxed since the country emerged from hard lockdowns in June, including capacities of business establishments, hotels and churches, in what officials said are part of the third phase of its strategy which is now set on learning to live with the virus.
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said the deployment of more personnel aims to make sure that people are still following health protocols especially in populous places.
“The enforcement of community quarantine rules is challenging as more people are allowed to go out," he said in a statement. "[We] will be at the frontline in maintaining the balance between the need to reopen the economy and our mandate to protect the people from coronavirus infection."
Police commanders were also told to coordinate with local governments for "force multipliers" as officials admit that there is a "lack of manpower to guard every street and corner of city and town proper."
Police Gen. Camilo Cascolan, chief of the country's police force, has said that police presence in barangays or communities would be heightened as well.
President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman had said that there is now a possibility for Metro Manila to be downgraded to modified general community quarantine, noting that the virus reproductive rate in the capital region has improved.
This, however, will still depend on how the public will follow health protocols, Secretary Harry Roque added.
Cabinet has also approved more people going out, with ages 15 to 65 now allowed to step out of their homes, from the original 21 to 60 that were allowed.
The government has long been criticized for seemingly militarizing its response to a pandemic, as well as for sticking to its narrative of branding those who do not follow health measures as "pasaway."
A group of doctors in July calling for a "medical time-out" amid the rise in cases had said that the "militarist handling instead of a medical approach to the pandemic" will only instill fear to the public, with nothing particular set on curbing the virus' spread.
The Philippines now has 362,243 coronavirus infections as of October 21, with 6,747 dead and 311,506 recovered.
It has consistently stayed at the list of the Top 20 countries with the highest number of cases, aside from placing second in Southeast Asia in terms of infections. — Christian Deiparine with reports from Franco Luna