The Metro Manila Council (MMC), composed of National Capital Region (NCR) mayors and national government officials, will impose a uniform and longer curfew hours starting March 15 in response to the surged of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections in the region.
In a virtual presser on Thursday, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos said the MMC agreed on implementing uniform curfew hours from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for two weeks in the NCR.
“A resolution is being drafted and will be signed by all mayors. This will only be for two weeks. Kung ito ay may improvement, maaaring tanggalin na po ito (if there will be improvement, we may remove this),” Abalos said.
He said essential workers, such as those working for restaurant or food delivery services, will still be allowed outside during curfew hours but must present their work identification card or certificate.
“Even with the curfew, establishments like food deliveries can operate 24 hours, yung mga (those) essential services,” Abalos said.
The decision, he said, was made after health experts from the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of the Philippines (UP) Octa Research team warned the MMC of the “alarming” number of new Covid-19 cases.
“We had a meeting with the UP Octa Research team. And from February 4 to 10, new cases per day is at 360. From March 4 to 10 — from 360 — it reached 1,411 in the NCR. And according to their figures, from 8 percent of new cases, it reached 60 percent from March 4 to 10. The numbers are quite alarming as far as NCR mayors are concerned,” Abalos said.
Aside from implementing the curfew, he said the MMC will intensify testing for Covid-19, contact tracing, and quarantine efforts.
Abalos said Covid-19 testing czar, Secretary Vince Dizon, with the help of the Philippine Red Cross, donated 25,000 testing kits.
“Ito ho ay initial pa lang at marami pa hong pupunta at dire-diretso po ito (This is just the beginning, more will come and this will continue),” Abalos said.
To help increase contact tracing efforts, he said the MMDA will send 300 contact tracers to local government units (LGU) in NCR, aside from the 360 contact tracers from the Philippine National Police (PNP).
He said the MMC also sought the help of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to provide experienced contact tracers.
“All of the mayors of Metro Manila have their own contact tracers and they can afford to hire more contact tracers. Pero dahil kailangan natin ng experienced contact tracers, kumakatok po tayo sa DILG (But because we need experienced contact tracers, we’re knocking on the door of the DILG),” Abalos said.
To avoid further spread of Covid-19, he said the MMC will focus on “granular lockdowns” or implementing lockdowns in small areas such as streets or barangays with high number of infections.
“Iigtingan din ng mga alkalde ang granular lockdown. Kung may clustering—bawat bahay, bawat kalye—maaari po itong isarado ng mga alkalde (Our mayors will intensify granular lockdowns. If there are clustering—every home, every street—these may be closed by our mayors),” Abalos said.
He said barangay officials and the police will be ordered to strictly enforce minimum health standards such as wearing face masks and face shields and proper physical distancing, noting that the spike in Covid-19 cases may be caused by the “lax” observance of these policies aside from the spread of the more infectious UK and South African variants.
While LGUs NCR opted to impose unform curfew hours, Abalos said sanctions on violators may vary depending on the ordinance of each LGU.
“Ang iniiwasan po natin ay mga nagka-cluster na mga tao sa mga kalye, talagang maghihigpit po tayo diyan (What we’re trying to avoid is clustering in public, we’re really going to be strict on that),” Abalos said.
He urged the public to comply with the curfew and other health policies, noting that individual discipline is key to avoiding further spread of Covid-19.
“Tandaan natin, ibang klase itong nangyayari ngayon. At the end of the day, importante ang disiplina ng bawat isa (We must remember, what’s happening is very different. At the end of the day, what’s important is individual discipline),” Abalos added.