More than 13,000 people remain stranded in Luzon awaiting transport assistance to return to their home provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao, an official said Wednesday.
But their transportation is already being arranged under the government’s “Hatid Tulong” program, according to Joseph Encabo of the Presidential Management Staff.
“They are here in Luzon and they want to return to their provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao,” Encabo said.
The government last week suspended its “Balik Probinsya” program to give way to the homecoming of the people stranded by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
More COVID-19 cases
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines went beyond 27,000 on Wednesday after the Health department reported 457 more infections—342 “fresh” or newly validated and 115 reported late, bringing the total to 27,238.
The total recoveries also rose to 6,820 after 268 more patients recovered from the disease, while the death toll climbed to 1,108 with five more fatalities.
Of the fresh cases, 144 were from Metro Manila, 101 were from Region VII and the remaining 97 were spread out across the country.
The Duterte administration has no regrets implementing strict and extended quarantine protocols to stop the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says the government’s ultimate goal is to protect Filipinos from COVID-19.
He says the Philippines has implemented one of the world’s toughest and longest quarantine restrictions amid the pandemic.
“I don’t think there’s any regret about what we have implemented,” Roque said.
“We have protected our people and we’re hoping that in the near future, we will recover from the economic losses that we suffered because of the policy decision to uphold the right to life.”
The Land Transportation Office on Wednesday ordered work suspended in Quezon City until June 19 after 12 of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
LTO chief Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante also ordered the Quezon City Licensing Office closed to disinfect its premises.
“The health and safety of our employees, as well as those of the public whom we are serving, is important,” Galvante said.
“We have suspended operations in order to make sure that the threat of spreading the coronavirus at our offices is contained. We are now conducting disinfection as well as further testing on all of our employees.”
DOJ locks down
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday placed the Department of Justice headquarters in Padre Faura, Manila on lockdown starting today until June 28 after five of its personnel tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I have ordered a lockdown on the DOJ main building, the new NPS building, and the annex building near the court of appeals due to possible exposure to COVID-positive employees reporting therein,” Guevarra said, in a text message to reporters.
The Justice Secretary said the buildings will be disinfected and contact tracing will be conducted. On-site work will resume on June 29, as Guevarra said from Thursday, work will continue to be done from home.
ECQ in Bicutan
The Taguig City government has placed two areas in Lower Bicutan under the enhanced community quarantine for 15 days.
As a result, the movements of all residents of Purok 5 and 6 will be restricted to buying essential goods, and they must have their Unified Quarantine Pass when going out.
The local government decided to place those areas under ECQ from June 17 to July 1 on the recommendation of the City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit. This was due to the clustering of the confirmed COVID-19 cases.
A congressional leader on Wednesday urged the Department of Health to move faster in addressing its COVID-19 test validation backlog to get a more accurate picture of the prevalence of the disease in the Philippines.
Deputy majority leader and Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera said “The government cannot claim that the curve is being flattened without seeing the actual picture and tackling the backlog in validating COVID-19 cases.”
She says there are 26,420 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines as of June 15. The Health department did not update its data on cumulative positive cases, but as of June 13, the positive individuals listed by testing centers have reached 32,728, meaning there are around 6,000 yet to be confirmed.
No reason for complacency
The relaxation of some quarantine measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic is no reason for the public to be complacent, Joint Task Force COVID Shield Commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said Wednesday.
“We are reminding the public that the COVID-19 threat is still out there and we could be hit if we will not observe proper precautions,” Eleazar said in a message to reporters after receiving reports that some people no longer wear face masks when going out of their homes.
Dine-in habits return
As parts of the country begin transitioning to the General Community Quarantine, more Filipinos are returning to their regular dine-in habits, according to the Department of Health.
In Tuesday’s Beat COVID-19 Virtual Presser, Health OIC-Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire sat down with the leaders of some of the country’s leading food and beverage groups to discuss how the takeout, dine-in and delivery experiences have been modified to ensure safety against the virus for both customers and employees.