MANILA, Philippines — Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases, people gathering at a limit of 50 percent of a venue’s capacity in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) is still allowed, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has not revised the prevailing rule on the allowed capacity for mass gatherings at venues at a given time.
“There was no review of the 50 percent limitation on mass gathering. Although all those enforced by the IATF is without prejudice to the steps to be undertaken by the LGUs (local government units),” Roque said in English and Filipino.
Last month, the IATF increased the number of people allowed to attend mass gatherings from 30 percent venue capacity to 50 percent. The relaxing of movement also covers the conduct of religious activities or services.
Following the IATF’s latest meeting on Thursday, Roque said local government units (LGUs) have been directed to more strictly enforce minimum public health safety and social distancing protocols.
Metro Manila mayors responded by deciding to impose uniform curfew hours from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow. Also, liquor bans can be put in place by enforcing local ordinances.
“So, that means the IATF has provided policies but the local governments are also providing further steps to minimize the spread. On the fight against COVID-19, we are really banking on bayanihan on the part of the LGUs and the IATF,” he said.
Police, barangay authorities and inspectors of other government agencies are to intensify monitoring obedience to these guidelines by establishments and the public.
The National Capital Region, Baguio City, Apayao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City and Lanao del Sur remain under GCQ until the end of March. The rest of the country is under the more relaxed modified GCQ.
Although the Department of Health (DOH) and OCTA Research team have independently recognized the upward trend in COVID-19 infections, Roque said the barometer for changing quarantine classifications is the two-week average attack and the health care utilization rates.
“We are closely monitoring the health care utilization rate since our quarantine classification depends on two-week average attack rate, daily average attack rate and health care utilization rate. What is important is that our hospitals won’t be overrun by patients suffering serious conditions,” he said.
The Palace official expressed confidence in the government’s ability to manage the situation better, even with new and more contagious variants of COVID-19 now affecting the country.
“Let’s just say, after one year, we now know the form of our enemy, and we now know how to live despite COVID-19,” he said.
On the economic front, the President’s spokesman said the Philippines is facing more challenges which would worsen if stricter lockdowns are imposed.
“Further lockdown would mean more difficulties for our countrymen. What we are saying is – we are living the new normal, where we need to strengthen the minimum health standards,” he said.
Roque said the public now knows how contagious the virus can be while the government has set the mechanisms for treating the disease.
“We know many are being infected but we are ready to intervene for those who are in need critical care. In the meantime, our fellow Filipinos must continue earning a living. We can do this. We should be careful and protect our lives while we work for a living,” he said.