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COVID-19 task force warns against unnecessary travel if ECQ is lifted

/ 05:02 PM May 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – People living in areas under lockdown should not immediately make unnecessary trips and travel should the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) be lifted, the Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID-19 Shield said.

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According to the JTF COVID-19 Shield and its chief Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, the threat of local transmission is still imminent and people visiting their families may put their relatives in danger especially since some of the coronavirus infections have been noted as asymptomatic.

“The Joint Task Force COVID Shield is discouraging the public from immediately going back to their hometowns to join or visit their family or relatives once the [ECQ] is lifted and placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ),” the task force said in a statement.

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Eleazar stressed though that the government already has a policy about stranded individuals, who were unable to reach home and their provinces when the Luzon-wide lockdown was implemented.

“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,” Eleazar explained.

“Our Chief PNP General (Archie) Gamboa fully understands the situation of our kababayan who were stranded because of the ECQ implementation. As a family man himself, he knows how it feels to be away from your family this long so he made sure that our commanders would immediately attend to these requests to travel but subject to strict adherence to the protocols,” he added.

The JTF said the protocol set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) says that people seeking to go back to their hometowns should secure medical certificates from the health offices of the local government units (LGUs) where they were stranded.

LGUs of their respective hometowns should also provide a certification that the stranded individuals are accepted.

Both documents would be used by the police officers in the area where the person is stranded in issuing a travel authority.

“The travel authority includes the date of travel, point of origin and destination, and name of driver and vehicles that will be used in the transport,” JTF said.

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“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,” Eleazar added.

The Luzon-wide ECQ was placed last March 16, and ended last April 30.  However, areas with high rates of coronavirus transmissions were still under an ECQ, while the rest was placed under a GCQ.

As the May 15 deadline for the ECQ nears, several local officials, especially in the National Capital Region, are mulling to extend it again.  Malacañang has also opened the possibility that parts of Metro Manila, especially those with a high rate of infections, will remain under lockdown.

The Department of Health said on Monday that there are now 11,086 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 726 casualties and 1,999 recoveries.  Worldwide, over 4.102 million persons have been infected, 282,709 of which have died while 1.408 million have recovered.

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