MANILA, Philippines (Corrected 6:44 p.m.) — Local governments will bear most of the responsibility of implementing a "bubble area" in Metro Manila and four provinces in Calabarzon and Central Luzon where a stricter General Community Quarantine will be put in place.
This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte tighter COVID-19 restrictions to address a continued surge in cases, including the banning of mass gatherings and non-essential travel in those areas for two weeks.
The Duterte administration, which has stressed "discipline" in its pandemic response, and the president has told local chiefs in his live-streamed addresses to just do what the national government says.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, he said that noncompliance on the part of local governments could lead to administrative and even criminal cases filed against erring officials.
In a resolution by the government's coronavirus task force, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has been directed to ensure that local governments enforce health measures such as:
- Ensuring that the protocols for isolation and quarantine are completed before facilitating reintegration with the community
- Ensuring and monitoring adherence to public health standards in homes and in the workplaces
- Implementing alternative working arrangements with the labor and trade departments
- Distributing masks and face shields "to the vulnerable sectors"
The same IATF resolution directs local chief executives to "actively find cases in the barangays with highest cases" and "increase and improve the facility-based quarantine and isolation."
Local governments were also told to "activate surge responses for the health system," such as ensuring "appropriate patient care navigation," and increasing dedicated beds and health system capacity.
"We're expecting the cooperation of village associations and barangays…it is highly discouraged to accept visitors to avoid additional interactions," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press briefing Sunday, when asked if local governments could take on the duty of doing house-to-house campaigns, particularly in gated subdivisions.
Earlier Sunday afternoon, Manila City Mayor Francisco Domagoso signed an ordinance locking down 16 of the city's barangays to curb the spread of the pathogen.
The Philippine National Police, an attached bureau under the DILG, has also been tasked with setting up checkpoints along the borders of the "bubble," Roque said.
Over the past week of a uniform curfew in Metro Manila, the PNP accosted more than 19,000 quarantine violators—5,300 of whom were arrested—after deploying more than 9,000 cops across the metro.
Health officials recorded 7,757 additional COVID-19 infections Sunday, bringing the national caseload to 663,794.
It was the second-highest daily coronavirus addition in the country, which has been on lockdown for 369 days—good for the longest quarantine in the world.
(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article included Bulacan in the Calabarzon region. This has been corrected to reflect that Bulacan is in Central Luzon)
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