Following the surge of COVID-19 cases in the Greater Metro Manila area, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on the Philippine National Police and concerned local government units (LGUs) and barangays to strictly impose the prohibition on any form of mass gathering in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby areas of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna from March 22 to April 4, 2021.
At the same time, DILG Officer-In-Charge Bernardo C. Florece Jr. also ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct border checkpoints in the said areas to prevent the entry and exit of non-essential workers and to enforce the uniform curfew hours of 10pm to 5am ordered by the President.
"Kailangan nating maghigpit dahil tumaas na naman ang mga Covid-19 cases. Mass gatherings put the people, their families and communities at risk of contracting the virus. They can become super-spreader events. We therefore need everyone's cooperation on the measures that the government is imposing to prevent the spread of the virus ," he said.
Florece said the prohibition on public gatherings in the said areas in areas currently experiencing a surge is necessary as COVID-19 cases rose to close to 8,000 in the past few days. The said areas have been declared under general community quarantine (GCQ) from March 22 (Monday) to April 4 (Sunday) per Resolution 104 of the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).
In the said resolution, all mass gatherings, including religious gatherings, are strictly prohibited, and the holding of face-to-face meetings are discouraged. In lieu of this, virtual meetings are highly encouraged. The holding of weddings, baptisms and funeral services shall be limited to ten persons only.
“LGUs should immediately deploy their COVID-marshalls, Barangay Disiplina Brigades, barangay tanods and other force multipliers to enforce the prohibition against mass gatherings,” he said.
Florece said that the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams should monitor the compliance with the prohibition in households within their jurisdiction. “We ask the public to report incidents of mass gatherings in their barangays to the BHERTs and the police so that these can be acted immediately,” he said.
The PNP has also deployed some 10,000 police officers in Metro Manila to enforce the prohibition against mass gatherings
Florece said LGUs should see to it that dine-in restaurants, cafes, and establishments shall also be limited to delivery, take-out, and outdoor or alfresco dining only. Alfresco or outdoor dine-in is allowed up to 50% of the venue capacity provided that acrylic or similar dividers are put in place with a maximum of two persons only per table seated one seat apart.
While current operational capacities of essential and non-essential services and industries are maintained, Florece said LGUs should see to it that safety protocols and minimum public health standards are implemented particularly in communal areas like pantries, canteens, and the like.
He also called on the LGUs and the police force to deploy personnel in the field and ensure that compliance on the temporary suspension of operations in driving schools, traditional cinemas, and video-and interactive-game arcades, libraries, archives, museums, cultural centers, limited social events at accredited establishments of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and limited tourist attractions except for open-air tourist attractions.
"We have been through this before and we were able to limit the number of cases per day. We should be able to weather this second surge with public cooperation and especially now that the vaccines are already available," said Florece.
Florece said Filipinos should remember that the current situation necessitates cooperation with government authorities and disicipline among the people.
“Kooperasyon at disiplina po ang kailangan natin sa panahong ito, hindi puwedeng puro gobyerno lang ang kikilos laban sa COVID-19. Dapat lahat ng Pilipino sama-sama at tulong-tulong dahil ito lang ang paraan para lahat tayo makaahon sa pandemya,” he added.