By Martin Sadongdong
Several concerns were raised on the first day of the implementation of the community quarantine in Metro Manila on Sunday as the national government continues to find solutions on how to prevent the spread of the deadly 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country.
Concerns from the ground received by the Manila Bulletin include lack of thermal scanners in checkpoints, the supposedly changing rules on the implementation of the guidelines as to who are allowed to enter and leave Metro Manila, and the horrendous traffic that the checkpoints caused.
In particular, Philippine Army personnel manning the checkpoint in the boundary of Meycauayan, Bulacan and Valenzuela City were found to have no working thermal scanners as it supposedly broke before noon due to the volume of people being checked.
Responding to queries, 1st Lieutenant Arrianne Bicharra, spokesperson of the military’s Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) said they have already looked into the availability of thermal scanners in all checkpoints being manned by soldiers.
Bicharra said medical personnel were supposed to be accompanying the soldiers and cops to check on the temperature of the individuals passing through the border, while the troops check for the identification cards.
Land, domestic sea and domestic air travels to and from Metro Manila were restricted because of the community quarantine but among those exempted are health workers, authorized government officials, those travelling for medical or humanitarian reasons, persons transiting to airports and providing basic services and public utilities, and essential skeletal workforce provided they have proof of employment in Metro Manila.
“This community quarantine is an inter-agency task group effort. We have the DOH [Department of Health] doon sa boundaries ng Meycauayan to assist also the PNP [Philippine National Police] sa checkpoints sa pagcheck ng temperature ng mga dumadaan,” Bicharra said.
“The PNP and AFP [are] checking for the identifications para mas mapabilis,” she added.
However, among the concerns raised was that cops and soldiers manning a checkpoint in Paranaque City were not that strict in checking the motorists, and were even allowing some to enter without IDs.
“The soldiers have different taskings,” Bicharra explained.
She clarified that some soldiers were designated to check on the body temperature of the individuals along with health practitioners, while cops are checking the IDs, and vice versa.
“Rest assured that the JTF-NCR is implementing the preventive measures instituted by the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force],” Bicharra noted.
Despite the concerns on the ground, the military official said the first day of the community quarantine in Metro Manila went “smoothly.”
This, even if there have been reports that the checkpoints resulted to long queues of public utility vehicles and private cars wanting to enter and leave Metro Manila.
“Initially, smoothly naman and deployment na nangyari. Until now, we are getting reports na cooperative naman ang mga tao na dumadaan sa checkpoints,” Bicharra said.
She appealed to the public to bear with the troops as the checkpoints were placed to ensure that no individual exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to enter or leave NCR without getting the necessary medical help.
“The JTF-NCR is here to assist the PNP and help the people,” she said.