No IATF decision yet on tightening restrictions on mass gatherings

Published March 12, 2021, 3:00 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government pandemic task force has yet to study whether or not to tighten the ban on large gatherings in the face of the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque however said local government units could take further steps to help curb the COVID-19 transmission in their areas, citing the implementation of curfews and liquor bans. Roque noted that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases only provides policy directions on pandemic response.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (RESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Wala pa pong review of the 50 percent limitation on mass gathering although lahat ng ipiinapatupad ng IATF is without prejudice sa mga ginagawa ng LGUs (There is no review yet of the 50 percent limitation on mass gathering although all policies of the IATF are without prejudice to the action taken by LGUs),” Duterte said during a televised press briefing in Ilocos Norte Friday, March 12 when asked if the government was considering tightening movement curbs.

“Talaga namang trabaho ng LGUs ang pag-i-impose for instance ng uniformed curfew ngayon sa Metro Manila (It is really the job of the LGUs to impose measures for instance a uniformed curfew in Metro Manila),” he added.

Roque noted that Metro Manila mayors have agreed to enforce uniform curfew hours starting March 15 until the end of the month. The new curfew hours, which will be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., will be imposed to stem the spike in coronavirus cases in the capital region.

On the liquor ban, Roque recognized the authority of local government units to decide on the matter. “May iba’t-ibang liquor ban ang ating mga lokal na pamahalaan (the local government units have their respective rules on liquor ban),” he said.

He maintained that the national government and the LGUs were engaged in “bayanihan” in protecting public health during the pandemic.

“Ang ibig sabihin po the IATF has provided the policies pero ang mga lokal na pamahalaan are also providing further steps para mapababa rin ang pagkalat at talaga naman pong bayanihan sa panig ng mga LGUs at IATF itong laban sa COVID-19 (This means the IATF has provided the policies but the local government are also providing further steps to curb the virus spread. There is really bayanihan between the LGUs and the IATF in the fight against COVID-19),” he said.

Last month, the IATF relaxed the restrictions on religious gatherings in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ). Mass gatherings for religious purposes have been allowed up to 50 percent of the seating or venue capacity from the previous 30 percent. The IATF also approved the reopening of cinemas, driving schools, video arcades, parks, and limited tourist attractions.

But Metro Manila mayors decided to defer the reopening of cinemas and arcades due to the increase in coronavirus cases in the region.

Under the community quarantine rules, the IATF prohibits mass gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment activities, community assemblies, and non-essential work gatherings in GCQ areas. In areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the government allows limited mass gatherings such as movie screenings and sports and entertainment events but participants must be limited to 50 percent of the seating or venue capacity.

As of March 12, the country cases of coronavirus have soared to 607, 048 with 12,608 deaths. The government has partly blamed the latest spike in COVID-19 cases on people’s supposed complacency in following health protocols. Authorities have appealed to the public to continue to follow health precautions as the government steps up testing, tracing and isolation efforts to curb the spread of the illness.