Common curfew, tighter curbs: Metro ‘back to square one’
A year after a lockdown was imposed on Metro Manila as the coronavirus pandemic reached the country, the capital region is again bracing itself for enhanced restrictions as if it’s “back to square one,’’ as one senator put it.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Benhur Abalos said police and village guards would set up border controls to cordon off parts of the metropolis, with a common curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to be imposed starting Monday.
In a meeting on Thursday night, the 17 mayors of the local governments making up the capital region agreed to enforce the common curfew for two weeks.
Speaking to reporters, Abalos said “commercial activities” would largely remain unimpeded, especially the transport of agricultural products during the curfew.
Workers, such as those employed in restaurants, would be allowed to pass through the border controls during curfew if they can present their company IDs, he added.
Food establishments on 24-hour operations can still accept diners, but their service will be limited to food deliveries during the curfew.
The start of the common curfew comes with the stricter enforcement of health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks and face shields and observing physical distancing, he added.
“We will implement very stringent measures, because the numbers that our mayors had seen were very alarming, with the presence of the UK and South African variants,” Abalos said.
Friday marked a full year since President Duterte made the announcement placing the capital region on lockdown, which took effect on March 15, 2020. It was eventually expanded to cover the rest of Luzon and other parts of the country.
In its latest resolution, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the strengthened enforcement of health and safety rules, including the “active search” for those suspected of contracting COVID-19 and their close contacts so they could be given swab tests and isolated while awaiting the results.
Local governments are directed to conduct the search, which will also cover workplaces.
Individuals showing symptoms must be tested and placed in an isolation facility. Those who wish to undergo home quarantine must be confined in dwellings that pass government standards.
At a press briefing on Friday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the use of the StaySafe.ph contact-tracing application would be fully implemented within 10 days.
Local government units with their own contact tracing systems must integrate these with the StaySafe.ph app, he said.
Speaking to reporters, Sen. Joel Villanueva expressed disappointment with the way the government had dealt with the COVID-19 threat a year after the country went on lockdown.
“We’re not moving forward,” said the senator. “It’s so disappointing to note that it’s been a year but we could hardly see any improvement.”
Villanueva said he understood the challenge of choosing between protecting public health and reopening the economy, “but the economy cannot go up until we have controlled the virus.’’
“The pandemic is a health crisis. In order to revitalize the economy, we need to strengthen the public health system,” Villanueva said.
“We need a better system that’s not just reactive. At the moment we are only taking action when the virus has already spread … Unfortunately, if you look at everything, we’re back to square one.” —WITH A REPORT FROM DJ YAP
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