DILG tells PNP, local execs: Keep students away from malls, other crowded areas

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday directed the Philippine National Police (PNP), and all mayors and village chiefs in Metro Manila to keep students away from malls, public markets and other crowded places following the declaration of class suspensions until March 14.

President Rodrigo Duterte on late Monday night announced the suspension of classes in Metro Manila as part of government efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the communities.

“The President has directed all local officials in NCR from mayor down to punong barangays as well as all units of the Philippine National Police to ensure that no children are seen loitering around and, if they are seen, they are to be immediately sent home to do their homework,”DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement.

“Our police officers and the barangay officials will serve as truant officers to ensure that kids stay at home. I have also directed all our Metro Manila Mayors to personally direct their respective Chiefs of Police to implement the presidential directive so that Local Governments and the police will jointly implement this policy of the government,”he added.

Año said the class suspension aims to pre-empt social distancing in order to slow down the virus spread, and that allowing students to go to public places during this time will defeat the very purpose of the action.

The DILG chief called on students’ parents to cooperate, monitor their children’s activities and ensure they stay home to do their homework to remain productive despite class suspensions.

“In the Task Force Meeting last night in Malacañang, the DepEd (Department of Education) said that they will give home assignments or performance tasks to all students so that they will have something productive to do during this period,” he said.

In a separate statement, DepEd earlier said it already directed schools to facilitate communication with the students and parents and to provide the necessary assignments to continue the process of learning the required competencies.

Home quarantine measures will also be strictly enforced for those suspected of having contracted coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Año called on all local government units in Metro Manila to temporarily suspend all mass gatherings to stop the spread of the virus.

He also reminded the public to maintain proper hygiene, and boost their immune system to fight the disease.

“We have no choice but to undertake these measures because public health demands it. Together with sustained hygiene (like regular handwashing, coughing etiquette, thermoscans and face masks), suspensions of classes and mass gathering will enable us to defeat this virus faster,” he said.

According to DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, the decision to suspend classes and mass gatherings this week was recommended by the DOH Expert Advisory Group in order to lower the number of people exposed to the virus, as well as decrease the risk of transmission per contact.

The DILG official also reiterated there is no need to lockdown Metro Manila following confirmation of the virus’ local transmission.

“We are still at Sublevel 1 and this type of alert level does not require a lockdown but only enhanced hygiene and preemptive social distancing measures,” Malaya said.

He also clarified that the following measures are only applicable in Metro Manila as of this time. 

“There is no decision yet about other places in the country. That would be dependent on the findings and recommendations of the DOH,” he said.

As of posting time, the country has 24 confirmed novel coronavirus cases.

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