Año to public, officials: Refrain from holding events
MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Sunday advised the public and his fellow government officials to refrain from holding community events if they could not guarantee compliance with coronavirus measures.
Año also said he would look into alleged violations of public health measures in events held in Agoncillo town, Batangas province, and on Bantayan Island in Cebu province that were attended by Sen. Manny Pacquiao and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque last week.
“We call on the public, including government officials, if you have activities and you cannot implement health standards, particularly [physical] distancing, stop it,” Año, deputy chief of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said in a radio interview.
“Just don’t push through with it because you cannot say sorry that you were not able to control [the transmission of the virus],” he added.
Año said a fact-finding investigation would look to see if anybody should be held liable for the violation of health standards in the distribution of relief goods by Pacquiao in Agoncillo on Thursday and at the inauguration of Bantayan Island airport on Friday, where Roque delivered a speech.
Roque said on Saturday that physical distancing was unnecessary when people gathered for an event were wearing masks and face shields.
On Sunday, Pacquiao said he welcomed any investigation into claims that public health standards were violated during his relief and early Christmas gift distribution to residents of Batangas whose lives were disrupted by the eruption of Taal Volcano in January and by a series of typhoons in recent weeks.
“Before that, we also distributed relief and financial aid to the fire victims in Bacoor and flood victims in Rizal province and in Marikina,” Pacquiao said in a statement.
“It should be clarified, however, that in all those events, we tried so hard to ensure that social distancing and health safety protocols were strictly observed. Marshals were assigned to ensure that all the requirements set by the National Task Force [Against] COVID-19 were implemented,” he said.
“Physical arrangements for all these events were preinspected to ensure social distancing and people were checked for face masks and face shields,” he said. “If there are some photos and videos showing what seems to be violations of the quarantine protocols, I can assure you that these do not reflect the real situation on the ground.”
Año also advised Senators Imee Marcos, Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian not to rush the lifting of restrictions on in-person classes in schools.
“When we say face-to-face classes, we’re talking about millions of students. So we cannot control that. But if we say selected, what would be the criteria when the President himself has banned face-to-face [classes] until the end of December,” Año said.
“Let’s not rush it,” he said. “The question really here should be you want to do that but who will take responsibility? You’re excellent in making recommendations but you’ll have no responsibility over it. If people get sick and there is a spike, are you going to cure them? Are you going to spend for their treatment?”
There was no immediate comment from any of the three senators on Sunday.
Año said he would discuss with the Metro Manila mayors before the meeting of the coronavirus task force on Monday their proposal to extend the general community quarantine up to the end of the year and that he had ordered the deployment of more policemen to enforce health measures at shopping malls, public markets and flea markets during the holiday season.
“We need to take into consideration their opinion and recommendation. The mayors want [general community quarantine] to continue until the end of the Christmas season because they want to avoid a spike [in coronavirus infections] when people start going out, hold parties, go caroling or engage in other activities,” Año said.
He said he understood people’s desire to take advantage of holiday discounts offered by retailers, but insisted that basic health measures should be enforced to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,076 additional coronavirus infections after nearly three weeks of fewer than 2,000 daily cases. The new infections brought the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 429,864.
The DOH also reported the “mass recovery” of 10,579 patients, including people with mild or no symptoms who had completed 14 days of quarantine, pushing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 398,624. But the death toll rose to 8,373 with the deaths of 40 more patients.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 22,867 active cases, of which 82.9 percent were mild, 7.4 percent asymptomatic, 0.34 percent moderate, 3.2 percent severe, and 6.1 percent critical.
Quezon City had the most number of new cases, 137, followed by Laguna (122), Cavite (103), Batangas (96) and Angeles City (79).
—With a report from DJ Yap
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