Another total lockdown may be needed if COVID-19 cases surge — DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The Department of Health says any sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the coming days may lead authorities to reimpose strict quarantine rules that this weekend were eased in several areas of the country.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Sunday, DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire talked about photos showing the number of people who flocked to malls in Metro Manila on Saturday, after the city shifted to modified enhanced community quarantine status.

"This is actually a shifting or transitioning para mapababa at mapababa ang community quarantine. Pero kung makikita po natin ito tapos biglang mag-surge ang cases natin, malaki po ang posibilidad na...we need to do another total lockdown if cases will increase," she said.

[Translation: This is actually a shifting or transitioning so we can continually lower community quarantine. But if we see this, and cases suddenly surge, there is a possibility we need to do another total lockdown if cases will increase.]

Malls and other facilities in Metro Manila partially opened on Saturday and Vergerie commented she hoped the guidelines set for these establishments would be followed.

LIST: Businesses allowed to reopen in Metro Manila, areas under modified ECQ by May 16

"Sana nga po ang ating mga kababayan ay naiisip nila na kung kinakailangan at saka magpunta diyan. Nagpalabas po ang pamantayan ang Department of Trade and Industry para sa mga malls para sundin po nila ito para hindi magdagsa ang mga tao. So we are expecting the mall operators and the local government units at that should enforce these minimum health standards. para po hindi nagkakaroon ng ganyang crowd sa loob ng isang mall," she said.

[Translation: I hope people think about whether they need to be in these places or not. The Department of Trade and Industry has released guidelines for malls for them to follow and not allow crowds to come in. So we are expecting mall operators, and the local government units at that, should enforce these minimum health standards so there would be no crowds in a mall.]

Vergeire reminded people that regardless of the classification an area falls into, the whole country is still under quarantine.

"Ang sinasabi at kailangan natin laging tandaan ay naka-community quarantine pa tayong lahat. Kahit na sabihin natin na modified ito, na general ito, lahat po ng areas dito sa ating bansa still on community quarantine," she said.

[Translation: What we are saying and what we should always remember is we are all under community quarantine. Even of we say it is modified or general, all areas in the country [are] still on communty quarantine.]

Vergeire reminds the public that everyone has an obligation and responsibility to fulfill and despite the easing of some restrictions, these should not be forgotten.

Metro Manila and six other provinces are under the modified enhanced community quarantine, which allows selected manufacturing and processing plants to reopen at half of their capacity, giving workers the opportunity to return to work after two months under lockdown.

Lawmakers have also weighed in on a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Senator Ralph Recto said he wasn't even sure the first wave was over.

"We haven't tested much. The stats will speak for itself. But yes, I expect more infections without proper social distancing and non-wearing of masks. We must continue reminding people only to go out for essentials and to practice social distancing and wearing masks and that the virus has not yet been defeated."

Senator Ping Lacson urged the IATF to reconsider the decision to let malls operate given the current situation.

"I think the IATF should reconsider their decision on the opening of the malls and other similar establishments unless strict physical distancing and other protocols are observed," he said,

Meanwhile, in a statement Sunday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government warned malls to stricly follow IATF guidelines on partial operations or risk closure.

"All chiefs of police and PCP commanders should make rounds of all malls prior to opening and during operating hours. If the malls are not able to comply with the minimum health standards, the PNP can close the malls and charge the mall owners with violation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act," DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said.

Año said checkpoints would also remain in all areas and the PNP would not relax from implementing the law. Curfews would also stay in place, he added.

READ: Passes still needed in areas under quarantine, curfews still in effect — DILG

“Hence, everyone must bring with them their government-issued ID Cards or company IDs or other proofs of employment in industries allowed to operate so that the PNP will have a basis to allow you to go through,” he said.

READ: IATF signs new guidelines for community quarantine