DOH reminds public to maintain physical distancing in evacuation centers as typhoon Ambo looms

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Residents stay in an evacuation center in this 2018 photo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 14) – The Department of Health reminded local government units setting up evacuation centers to allot wider spaces to ensure physical distancing as families take shelter due to typhoon Ambo.

Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said families must maintain a safe distance and practice reduced contact with others "in all settings" and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 among evacuees.

"Kailangang makapagpatupad at makagawa ng stratehiya kung saan magkakaroon ng pagkakahiwa-hiwalay, kahit isang metro po ang layo ng bawat pamilya diyan sa evacuation center [We need to implement and find a strategy wherein families can be at least one meter apart in evacuation centers]," Vergeire said during the government's Laging Handa briefing on Thursday.

Vergeire added that this can be done by separating families into tents to limit physical interactions as the COVID-19 threat hounds communities.

Thousands of Samar residents as well as those from Albay and Ticao Island may be forced out of their homes as the state weather bureau hoisted Signal No. 3 in these areas, with forecasters warning of possible flooding and storm surge. The typhoon made landfall over San Policarpio town in Eastern Samar on Thursday noon.

Families who will evacuate must observe minimum health standards despite the typhoon, Vergeire said. This entails the wearing of face masks, proper hygiene, and cough etiquette.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said separately that disaster relief protocols are ready under Oplan Listo, as he assured that evacuation centers have been told to adhere to physical distancing on a "per-family basis." He also assured that there are enough relief goods on standby as families may be forced out of their homes due to strong winds and heavy rain.

Flooding may be experienced in the coastal areas of Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Sorsogon, Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Quezon, and Aurora due to a possible storm surge of 1 to 3 meters within 48 hours, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said in its 11 a.m. bulletin.

These provinces will be under relaxed quarantine rules starting Saturday, as authorities saw lower coronavirus infections in these areas.