MMDA eyes review of quarantine rules
MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos said the situation is alarming and they are now looking for hotels in adjacent provinces as quarantine facilities.

MMDA eyes review of quarantine rules

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Quarantine policies in the National Capital Region (NCR) are to be reviewed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) as the 12-day spike in COVID-19 cases filled quarantine facilities to 89 percent capacity yesterday.

MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos said the situation is alarming and they are now looking for hotels in adjacent provinces as quarantine facilities.

At least nine hotels in Metro Manila which were converted into quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients are 89 percent full. One in Manila is already 98 percent occupied, Abalos told The STAR on the sidelines of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers in Mandaluyong City.

“There is really a high occupancy right now. So we’re looking for other facilities,” he said. “We’ve sent some patients outside of Metro Manila.”

The MMDA chief was set to meet the mayors last night to discuss measures needed to contain the surge in infections, including intensified contact tracing efforts on the local government level.

Once again, he stressed the need to strictly enforce health and safety protocols in public places.

Abalos said they would discuss at their meeting tonight issues like the kids going out and gathering in groups, “these kinds of measures.”

Citing government data, Abalos said there were only 3,767 active COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila on Feb. 22, but in a span of 12 days, the number ballooned to 6,479, or an increase by 71.99 percent.

“I’m not exaggerating. These are the real facts that are happening right now,” he said.

Abalos urged Metro Manila residents to remain vigilant and continue observing health and safety protocols as COVID-19 remains a threat even if the government has started the nationwide vaccination program.

Violators warned

Following a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in Quezon City, Mayor Joy Belmonte warned residents that the local government cannot afford to be lenient toward health protocol violators, so penalties would certainly be imposed.

“Many of our countrymen are no longer taking our ordinances on health protocols (seriously). Now, we will give them a reason to take this very seriously as we won’t be lenient this time around,” warned the mayor.

Belmonte’s pronouncement comes as the city recorded a spike in new COVID-19 infections, reaching an average of 149 daily in the past week.

She said violators of health protocols, such as non-wearing of face masks in public places, will be fined on the spot to remind them not to put their lives and that of others at risk.

Also, the city has an existing ordinance directing all those below 15 years old to remain at home.

Violators of either of these rules are to be fined P300, P500 and P1,000 for the first, second and third offenses, respectively.

Belmonte also warned that establishments that violate minimum health standards will be dealt with more severely, especially hotels being used as quarantine facilities for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“There were reports that some quarantine hotels allow patients to leave the quarantine premises even before they finish the required quarantine period,” she said.

They would be dealt with accordingly, she added.

The city government is also eyeing the possibility of suspending the release of police clearance, occupational permit, barangay clearance and hawkers’ permit to apprehended individuals or establishments that refuse to pay penalties.

Some 3,000 volunteers under the Barangay Disiplina Brigade program would be deployed all over the city to strictly enforce all COVID-19 related ordinances.

Granular lockdowns

Meanwhile, Mandaluyong is eyeing the imposition of a granular lockdown in some areas of the city to counter the surge in COVID-19 cases in the past two days.

Mayor Carmelita Abalos expressed concern after their records show that from 160 cases on Thursday, the number went up to 242 on Friday, an increase of about 51.25 percent.

“I’m disappointed. There’s a spike in the last two days,” she told reporters during the ceremonial vaccination of the city’s medical frontliners yesterday.

The mayor said she will discuss with city health officials the specifics of the planned restrictions and clarified it will only cover certain portions of the city.

“We’ve identified these areas. So if it’s a condo, maybe we’ll lock down one floor; or maybe just a small street,” she said. – Janvic Mateo

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