By Chito Chavez
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eudardo Año asked the public on Sunday to prepare for the “new normal’’ where wearing face masks, social distancing, and prohibition of mass gatherings will be mandatory.
With the current situation, Año in an interview with ANC said the country is bound to face extreme difficulties in the face of the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic throughout the year.
He also ruled out that the government intends to enforce martial law in the country but clarified that a “Martial Law-style” implementation of the quarantine measures may be imposed in areas where there is an abundance of violators.
Año also shrugged off claims that a “total lockdown for the entire country” is in the offing explaining what is intended is to implement the existing measure “on a very strict mode.”
Earlier, President Duterte warned that Martial Law-like lockdowns over COVID-19 quarantine violations may be imposed stressing that the people should be made aware of the seriousness of the health crisis situation.
Leading to the strict implementation of ECQ regulations, Duterte has ordered the increased deployment of the police and the military in the days leading to the end of the April 30 lockdown.
Año noted that a recommendation on what action will be taken after the end of the extended Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (EEQ) may be submitted to the President on April 25.
He added that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emergency Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is expected to meet again today to discuss the latest on the “COVID-19 epidemiology” situation.
During the meeting, Año said the IATF members will consider the recommendation and conclusions that will be presented in the meeting.
He added that these will be consolidated with “our health system capacity at the present, looking into the economic factors and also social factors” and other similar considerations.
“So, we’re thinking of coming up with a recommendation to the president probably, maybe, on the 25th. And then, of course, it’s going to be the president who shall decide whether the ECQ will be lifted, or modified, or partially lifted, or even extended,” he added.
Año also said that expanding the ECQ in other parts of the country is also an option.
He added that the severely-affected areas outside Luzon where there are local transmissions of the disease like Cebu City’s Sitio Zapatera are currently being monitored extensively.
With the stricter implementation of the lockdown, Año warned the public of more arrests for violators of quarantine measures especially those “engaging in other activities like drinking and gambling.”
Año expressed frustration for the apparent lack of concern by some people, “as if they just don’t care.”
The DILG chief has also asked the local government units (LGUs) to approve ordinances and resolutions that would punish violators.
To recall, the President placed Luzon under ECQ from March 17 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic where economic activities were minimized.