Palace warns of return to ECQ after shoppers crowd malls
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday warned of the possible reimposition of the strict lockdown rules after throngs of people headed to shopping malls in Metro Manila and allegedly ignored health standards on the very first day of the eased quarantine guidelines last Saturday.
While it is “understandable” that people want to go out after a strict two-month movement restriction, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that among its consequences is the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the country and the return of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in areas where quarantine rules were relaxed.
“Kung tayo po ay lalabas ng napakarami at hindi mag-o-observe ng social distanding, unang-una babalik po tayo sa ECQ. Sabi ko naman po, hindi naman po nakataga sa bato ‘yan na tayo ay nasa MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) na,” Roque said in a televised press briefing in Malacañang.
(If we go out in groups without observing physical distancing, we will return to ECQ. I’ve said it before, being under MECQ is not permanent.)
“Pero ‘pag dumami pa rin at hindi natin kakayaning magbigay ng critical care doon sa mga magkakasakit, lalo po tayong balik sa kulungan. ECQ uli,” he added.
(If cases surge and go beyond our critical care limit, we will definitely go back to home quarantine. We will be under ECQ again.)
Several sectors were allowed to operate on a limited capacity starting Saturday, May 16 in areas under MECQ including Metro Manila—the country’s economic center— to pump some life into the country’s economy that was heavily battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But photos and videos showing mall-goers in some malls in the metropolis violating physical distancing rules went viral on social media, drawing widespread criticism and alarm.
However, during a House committee hearing, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez labeled the reports as “fake news” as he presented pictures of their supposed inspection of several malls in Metro Manila on Sunday.
Roque, for his part, did not refer to the said reports as fake news in his press briefing at the Palace. He even reiterated the threat of the Interior Department that malls will be closed once again if they do not strictly implement physical distancing and crowd control measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has infected 12,513 people nationwide.
“May legal possibility po ‘yan. Under the We Heal As Once Act, kinakailangan ipatupad ang mga requirements ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases). So meron ding criminal liability ‘yan if they do not exert or if they do not fulfill the obligation na dapat ginagawa nila,” he stressed.
(It has legal basis. Under the We Heal As One Act, guidelines set by the IATF must be strictly enforced and followed. They also have criminal liability if they do not exert or if they do not fulfill their obligation to protect the people.)
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