By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Work and religious gatherings are now allowed to take place in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ) provided they adhere to strict preventive measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In his Palace press briefing Thursday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that President Duterte has approved certain mass gatherings to take place in areas under the GCQ.
“Essential work gatherings and religious activities may continue so long as strict social distancing, as defined as the strict maintenance of at least two (2)-meter distance between and among those attending,” Roque said, citing the recent Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases resolution.
“The mandatory wearing of face mask, face shield, and other facial protective equipment by attendees, is maintained during the entirety of the event,” he added.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, during the same press briefing, said that attendees or participants of the gathering must undergo thermal scanning and observe proper hand sanitation before taking part.
For religious activities like masses, Año said it was now up to religious leaders how they will implement the said guidelines. He suggested adding more services to prevent people from crowding.
“So ma-satisfy nila yung (So they will be able to satisfy the required) two-meter distance between worshippers,” he said.
Año, meanwhile, explained that IATF did not bother defining what a mass gathering is, or how many people would constitute a mass gathering because Filipinos will surely look for a way around it.
“Ang importante dito distansiya – two meters – at walang magkakasama, magkakatabi. Wala na tayong numero na pinag-uusapan dito (What’s important here is the distance. No one should be next to each other. We’re not talking of numbers here),” he said.
President Duterte has placed lowrisk and moderate-risk areas in the country under the GCQ until May 15.
Meanwhile, high-risk areas like Metro Manila, Central Luzon (except Aurora), Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod City, and Davao City are placed under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Despite the decision of the IATF to allow public transportation under the GCQ, Año said jeepneys are still prohibited.
“Magkakaharap yung mga tao diyan. ‘Pag lumabas ang isang pasahero, mabubugahan niya lahat ng dadaanan niya (The people inside jeepneys are facing each other. When one of them alights the vehicle, he may cough on everyone on his way),” he said.
50% of capacity for buses
For buses, Año said it can only transport half of its full capacity to ensure physical distancing.
“Kung 50 ang kanyang capacity, 25 lang ang makakasakay doon at gagawan nila ng paraan na alternate ang pag-upo ng mga pasahero (If its capacity is 50 passengers, they can only bring 25. They should ensure that passengers seat alternately),” he said.
For taxis and other public utility vehicles, Año said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will issue guidelines for them.
Año said that public transportations should ensure a one-meter distance between passengers. They should also implement other preventive measures like thermal scanning, hand sanitation, and the mandatory wearing of facial protective equipment.
He added that officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Land Transportation Office (LTO), and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), will work together to ensure that the said guidelines are strictly implemented.
Roque said a special batch of around 200 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Milan, Italy, shall be subjected to RT-PCR or rapid antibody test upon arrival. Those who test negative shall be exempted from the requirement of facility-based quarantine and shall be allowed to proceed to their respective destinations and undergo a mandatory 14-day home quarantine.
National Task Force COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez has been given full discretion in utilizing rapid antibody test kits to facilitate the speedy management or processing of more or less 16,000 OFWs who are currently in quarantine facilities and arriving foreign nationals.
Meanwhile, all arriving non-OFWs shall be managed in accordance with the updated algorithm for the triage and management of repatriated OFWs from high-risk or other jurisdictions issued by the Department of Health and the Bureau of Quarantine.
Other ECQ guidelines
Under the ECQ, manufacturing and processing plants of basic food products, medicine and vitamins, medical supplies, devices and equipment, and essential personal care products is allowed. Provided, that they operate at a maximum of 50 percent of their respective workforces. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) authorized to approve the temporary increase of workforce capacity if the supply level of a basic food product warrants a higher capacity.
Delivery services transporting food, medicine, or other essential goods are allowed, as well as the delivery of clothing, accessories, hardware, housewares, school and office supplies, and pet food and other veterinary products.
Capital markets, including but not limited to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Securities and Exchange Commission, Philippine Stock Exchange, Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corporation, Philippine Securities Settlement Corporation, and Philippine Depository and Trust Corporation are allowed.
Construction workers accredited by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to work on quarantine and isolation facilities, including those for the health sector, emergency works, flood control, and other disaster risk reduction and rehabilitation works are allowed.
The Philippine Postal Corporation is allowed to operate only with employees necessary to maintain the prompt delivery of services to its clients. The same applies to Philippine Statistics Authority employees conducting data gathering and survey activities related to COVID-19 and the registration and implementation of the national ID system.
The IATF also allowed under the ECQ the humanitarian assistance personnel from civil society organizations (CSOs), non-government organizations (NGOs), and United Nations-Humanitarian Country Teams, as well as individuals performing relief operations to augment the government’s response against COVID-19 and other disasters or calamities that may occur. They, however, must be authorized by the appropriate government agency or local government unit (LGU).
Government offices and private corporations, meanwhile, are encouraged to process payrolls online. However, for those who cannot, payroll managers, and such other employees that may be required to process and print payrolls shall be allowed to travel and operate during the ECQ.
Funeral under ECQ
Funeral and embalming services may operate. Provided, that funeral service operators are directed to provide shuttle services and/or housing accommodations for their personnel and staff.
Pastors, priests, imams, or such other religious ministers whose movement shall be related to the conduct of necrological or funeral rites are allowed. In this connection, immediate family members of the deceased from causes other than COVID-19 shall be allowed to move from their residences to attend the wake or interment of the deceased upon showing proof of their relationship with the latter. They must also observe social distancing measures.
IDs and checkpoints
Regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over permitted establishments or persons are likewise tasked to issue official IATF accreditation IDs. Bonafide IDs issued by establishments exempted from the strict home quarantine requirement shall likewise be honored by law enforcement agencies.
The RapidPass System shall be complementary to the existing IATF IDs which shall continue to be honored in all quarantine checkpoints. Enrollment for RapidPass IDs shall be voluntary.
The PNP, meanwhile, retains its authority to conduct inspection procedures in checkpoints to implement quarantine protocols.
Movement under GCQ
The movement of all persons in areas placed under GCQ shall be limited to accessing essential goods and services, and for work in the offices or industries permitted to operate. Movement for leisure purposes is prohibited.
Any person 21 years old and below, those who are 60 years old and above, and health-risk individuals including any person who resides with them are required to stay at home except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices.
Work in government offices may be at full operational capacity, or under such alternative work arrangements as agencies may deem proper in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
Essential public and private construction projects, such as but not limited to sewerage, water services facilities, and digital works, and health facilities, and priority projects, shall be allowed to operate in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Hotels under GCQ
Based on the new IATF resolution, hotels or similar establishments are not allowed to operate, except those accommodating the following: For areas outside Luzon:
1. Guests who have existing booking accommodations for foreigners as of May 1, 2020; 2. Guests who have existing longterm bookings; 3. Distressed OFWs and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals; 4. Repatriated OFWs in compliance with approved quarantine protocols; 5. Non-OFWs who may be required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine; and 6. Healthcare workers and other employees from exempted establishments.
Hotel operations shall be limited to the provision of basic lodging to guests.
The entry and exit of people to and from the ECQ zone shall be prohibited, except for the following:
1. Health workers 2. Government officials and government frontline personnel 3. Those traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons 4. Persons transiting to the airport for travel abroad 5. Workers in permitted establishments and persons providing essential goods and services and public utilities 6. Essential skeletal workforce 7. Repatriated OFWs and nonOFWs returning to their residences 8. Other persons transported through the efforts of the national government
The movement of all types of cargoes by land, air, or sea within and across areas placed under ECQ or GCQ shall be unhampered. Workers in the logistics sector shall likewise be allowed to transit across areas placed under ECQ or GCQ.
Roque said workers in the logistics sectors such as cargo, trucking, and port operations will also be allowed to transit across ECQ and GCQ zones. The government however imposed a maximum limit of five personnel that may operate cargo and delivery vehicles by land with or without load.
Land, air, or sea travel by uniformed personnel and government officials and employees for official business, especially those transporting medical supplies and laboratory specimens related to COVID-19, and other relief and humanitarian assistance, is also allowed.
Meanwhile, OFWs, permanent residents of foreign jurisdictions, and stranded foreign nationals may leave for abroad through any of the airports or seaports. Filipinos, however, not allowed to go to countries where travel restrictions are in place.
Repatriated OFWs or returning non-OFWs who have been issued a DOH or LGU certificate of completion of 14-day facility-based quarantine, or those who may be required to undergo quarantine shall be granted unhampered transit across zones.
The ITAF has enjoined LGUs under the GCQ to enact the necessary ordinances to enforce a curfew for nonworkers and to penalize quarantine violators in a fair and humane manner.
For residential and commercial rents falling due within the duration of the ECQ or GCQ upon residential lessees and micro-, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) not permitted to operate during the quarantine period, a 30-day grace period is granted from the last due date or until such time that the community quarantine is lifted, whichever is longer, without incurring interests, penalties, fees, or other charges.
All persons are mandated to wear face masks, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable, do-it-yourself masks, face shields, or even handkerchiefs whenever they go out of their residences to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Concerned LGUs are urged to issue the necessary executive order or ordinance to that effect, and to provide fair and humane penalties.
Establishments providing essential goods like food, medicine, and supply are encouraged to extend their store operations to a maximum of 12 hours. For wet markets, LGUs may adopt reasonable schemes to ensure compliance with strict social distancing measures. They cannot, however, narrow down the hours of operation of the foregoing establishments.
Acts of discrimination inflicted upon healthcare workers; repatriated OFWs and non-OFWs; and confirmed, recovered, suspected, and probable COVID-19 cases are denounced. LGUs are enjoined to issue the necessary executive orders and/or enact ordinances prohibiting and penalizing the following discriminatory acts:
1. Coercion 2. Libel 3. Slander 4. Physical injuries 5. Dishonor of contractual obligations, among others
Guidelines for seniors
Meanwhile, the elderly will not be totally locked inside in their homes while the community quarantine is in effect in several parts of the country.
Senior citizens may still leave their homes for essential activities, including buying food and reporting for work, during the quarantine period based on a latest government decision.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) has approved certain exemptions to the home quarantine rule for the young, elderly and those with health risks in quarantine areas following the appeals made by concerned sectors.
“IATF is not insisting that seniors are under house arrest or will be under house arrest. This is just an overall policy presented to us due to vulnerability of the age segment especially during the quarantine period,” Lopez said in a message read by Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on government television Thursday. (With a report from Genalyn Kabiling)