AUTHORITIES have shrugged off rumors that Metro Manila will be reverted to stricter quarantine rules as a measure against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) transmission.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairman of the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19, said Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of the year as earlier announced by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I would like to inform the public that the current situation in Metro Manila is stable and manageable and does not warrant a shift back to MECQ,” he added. MECQ, or modified enhanced community quarantine, is more restrictive than GCQ.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Vicente Danao said a memorandum circulating on social media about Metro Manila being reverted to MECQ is not legitimate.
“Actually, it is an unsigned memo. So, definitely it is not an official document. It is only the IATF ang nag-a-announce niyan (that makes an announcement),” he said in a radio interview.
The IATF refers to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body on the government’s Covid-19 response.
“Kung meron po tayong sasabihin, it is just a recommendation from our part. Definitely po, 'yung lumalabas na memo is a (sic) fake news,” he added.
(Whatever we say is just a recommendation. Definitely, the memo being circulated is fake news.)
Rumors about another lockdown in Metro Manila starting Saturday midnight spread fast, causing panic among residents in the capital region and in nearby provinces.
No such declaration has been made as of Sunday noon, December 20.
Checkpoints, however, were reestablished in key areas on Saturday, causing heavy traffic.
From Taytay in Rizal to Pasig City, traffic along an estimated five-kilometer stretch was at a standstill.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año clarified that the reestablishment of checkpoints in strategic areas is aimed at enforcing minimum public health standards during this holiday season.
"Para i-check (To check) travelers and passengers complying with health protocols," Año told reporters on Saturday, December 19, 2020.
He said the checkpoints are also aimed at deterring possible attacks by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) ahead of their anniversary on December 26, 2020.
“Likewise, lapit na din anniversary ng NPA. Mag-conduct daw sila ng atrocities para mapansin. Di kasi maka-extort nowadays," Año added.
(The NPA anniversary is approaching. They will reportedly commit atrocities to attract attention because they could no longer extort.)
The Manila Police District also established a checkpoint for vehicles bound for Divisoria, a popular shopping destination in Metro Manila.
Danao said they will be enforcing GCQ protocols more strictly. More policemen will be deployed on the streets.
“Medyo naghigpit tayo ng kaunti sa ating GCQ o sa ating health protocol implementation,” he said.
“Hindi lang po health protocol ang atin pong ini-implement diyan kundi most of the anti-criminality and especially sa anti-terrorism,” he added.
Lorenzana appealed to the public to cooperate in observing health safety protocols.
These include wearing of face masks and face shields in all public areas, and observing physical distancing.
The mandatory wearing of face shields aside from face masks in all public areas was announced just last week.
Implementing guidelines, which could include exemptions, have yet to be issued. Under a Pasig City ordinance, bikers are not required to wear face masks.
Health experts earlier warned that Covid-19 cases could surge after the holiday season as more people go out and converge in crowded areas.
As of December 19, 2020, the Department of Health has recorded a total of 458,044 coronavirus cases, including 28,047 active cases, 8,911 fatalities and 421,086 recoveries. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)