MANILA, Philippines – The government would be strictly enforcing the ban on mass gatherings in Metro Manila during the month-long community quarantine to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a Palace official said Friday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said mass gatherings include concerts, large seminars, and conventions, as well as sporting events and social gatherings.
Nograles said this is part of the stringent social distancing measures that would be implemented during the quarantine period from March 15 to April 14.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night placed Metro Manila under community quarantine in a bid to stop the spread of the virus to nearby cities and provinces.
The declaration follows the raising of Code Red Sub-level 2 amid rising cases of novel coronavirus infections in the country.
During the quarantine period, land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila are suspended, subject to daily review of the government.
Work in the executive branch and classes in all levels in Metro Manila are also suspended.
Mall and shop owners were earlier urged by authorities to continue operations. The delivery of goods and services will also be allowed as long as it follows regulations.
Private companies were also encouraged to implement a flexible work arrangement or a work from home set up for the meantime to protect their employees.
Nograles stressed that movement of residents in Metro Manila will not be restricted but everyone should cooperate and obey the rules to help stop the contagion.
“Government will not stop us from going about our business––but we have to understand that it cannot be business as usual if we hope to overcome this public health threat,” he said in a statement.
In a separate interview with the media, the Palace official also admitted that this process would require a huge adjustment on the part of residents of Metro Manila.
“Malaking adjustment po ito para sa atin sa Metro Manila, but we ask everyone to cooperate because allowing these gatherings during this crucial time could be more painful in the long run,” he said.
The Palace official added that additional details would be forthcoming as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) irons out the details of the implementing guidelines that would cover mass gatherings like worship services and religious gatherings, among others.
The task force will also discuss possible measures for those who will defy the ban on mass gatherings.
“Ibi-bring-up po namin kay Pangulo ang lahat ng mga options, mag-de-desisyon po ang Pangulo,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude to all medical and government personnel helping keep the coronavirus at bay, and reiterated that the public’s vigilance and observance of precautions are crucial to beat the disease.
“[The] government is resolute in its efforts to contain this outbreak, and we thank all the medical and government personnel at the frontlines helping us keep Covid-19 at bay––but we in government cannot do it alone,” he said.
“The cooperation of everyone is a crucial component of our campaign to beat this disease; if we remain calm, continue to be vigilant, and take the necessary precautions, mga kababayan, magtulungan po tayong lahat, kaya po natin ito,” he added.
The IATF has been tasked by the president to meet daily to regularly monitor and assess developments in the campaign to contain the outbreak. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
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