Western Visayas reverts to stricter lockdown as virus cases rise
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Provinces and cities in Western Visayas reimposed stricter health measures, including longer curfews and selective lockdowns, amid a surge in cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo Lazo on Saturday also ordered the immediate suspension of public Masses in churches in Iloilo in response to an appeal of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.
Iloilo City and province, like the rest of Western Visayas, is now under modified general community quarantine where public Masses are already allowed at half of the churches’ capacity and provided that churchgoers observe social distancing and wear face masks.
In Antique province, San Jose Bishop Marvyn Maceda on Saturday also ordered the suspension of public Masses and celebrations after a priest was exposed to an infected person.
The priest subsequently came in contact with other priests in the diocese. The prelate encouraged the faithful to participate in Holy Masses streamed on social media or broadcasted over radio and television stations.
Longer curfew hours
Seven persons, including a 7-year-old girl from Dumangas town in Iloilo, died of COVID-19 while 142 others contracted the virus in Western Visayas in just two days.
As of Sunday, Western Visayas has recorded 1,931 COVID-19 cases with 31 deaths and 957 recoveries, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Treñas reimposed a ban on the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in public areas, lengthened the curfew from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., and mandated City Hall employees 55 years old and above to work from home. But a lockdown has also been imposed at the Iloilo City Terminal Market and Iloilo fishing port while six villages in the city were also placed under varying levels of quarantine restrictions.
Work in call center companies will be limited to 50 percent of its personnel starting on Monday after 28 call center agents tested positive for the disease. Other call centers agents will work from home.
Treñas appealed for understanding amid complaints especially from business operators.
“This is also a tough decision for me, but I choose the lives of many people rather than the income of the city. This is for the greater good of the people,” he said in a statement.
The Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office reported 192 COVID-19 cases as of Aug. 8 with nine deaths and 66 recoveries.
Except for the longer curfew hours, public transportation in the city will continue to be available, malls will remain open and restaurants can still operate at 50-percent capacity.
In Bacolod City in Negros Occidental province, Mayor Evelio Leonardia also adjusted the curfew hours from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. instead of starting at 10 p.m.
In the island province of Guimaras, Gov. Samuel Gumarin has issued an executive order tightening travel restrictions effective on Monday, Aug. 10.
Guimarasnons who have not returned to the island before Aug. 1 are required to undergo a 14-day home quarantine upon returning to the island unless they have tested negative in a swab test within the past three days.
Only nonresidents who are transporting basic commodities and necessities and traveling for emergency purposes will be allowed to go to the island.
Nonresidents who render services or work in Guimaras will need to undergo weekly rapid testing.
—With a report from Carla P. Gomez
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