Palace dismisses rumors of nationwide COVID-19 lockdown

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace dismisses rumors of nationwide COVID-19 lockdown
In this May 16, 2020 file photo, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, inspects a clothing store at a mall in Antipolo, Rizal.
Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Sunday dismissed rumors that the government would impose a nationwide lockdown from December 23 this year to Jan. 3, 2021 and urged the public not to peddle false information in the middle of a pandemic.

Text messages advising the public to prepare for a "possible" declaration of a nationwide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) circulated over the weekend, almost a week since President Rodrigo Duterte announced the quarantine classifications for this month.

ECQ is the strictest quarantine scenario wherein public transportation is prohibited and very few sectors like health care and food production and distribution can operate.

The text messages claimed the lockdown would be implemented "to prevent possible increase of COVID-19 cases during holiday season."

"Fake news," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a text message when asked to react to the supposed plan to enforce a nationwide lockdown.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases vice chairman, urged the public to act responsibly during the pandemic.

"Know the truth. Do not spread fake news especially during this time. Let us continue to be responsible to ourselves and to our families," he said.

Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the national COVID-19 task force, reminded the public to verify information they receive.
"Let us not be instruments of fake news distribution," Padilla said in a text message.

In August, rumors also spread through text messages and group chats that Duterte had flown to Singapore, which the Palace tried to address by saying the president was in the country and was monitoring the COVID-19 situation. The rumors came after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Metro Manila, Batangas, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, Lanao del Sur, Iligan, Davao City, and Davao del Norte will be under general community quarantine until the end of the year while the rest of the country will be under the most lenient modified general community quarantine.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire this week said a lockdown is possible in case of a surge in COVID-19 cases over the Christmas holidays.

“But there are still no discussions on these restrictions and all. We are just trying to plug the possibility that there might be a surge because of this holiday season,” she also said in an interview on “The Chiefs” aired on One News/TV5. 

Last month, health officials said they are preparing for a possible surge of COVID-19 infections after the holidays and have urged the public to continue complying with health standards like proper hygiene, wearing of face shields and face masks, and physical distancing.

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