Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla on Monday closed down all shopping malls two days after they were allowed to reopen because the crowds flocking to them were not following physical distancing and other quarantine rules.
This developed as the Palace on Monday warned that it would reimpose the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after it noticed that hundreds of people flocked to malls in Metro Manila, ignoring health protocols, three days after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) eased quarantine measures and allowed some businesses to reopen.
The Palace also warned it would close down malls found violating health protocols.
READ: ‘Lockdown if cases surge’
On Saturday, Cavite province shifted from the stricter ECQ to a general community quarantine (GCQ) that allowed shopping malls to resume operations after a two-month lockdown.
But Remulla said mall owners and operators, as well as shoppers, failed to observe health protocols to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
He said all shopping centers in Cavite would be temporarily shut for failing to practice social distancing.
"The province recorded 40 new (COVID-19) cases after the quarantine was downgraded to GCQ. As of May 13, Cavite had 239 cases and 275 cases on May 17," said Remulla.
“You think the GCQ is a freedom pass. You think the reduction in the number of checkpoints means you can ignore the passes needed to leave your homes. You think the work ID is a pass to play hooky. Well, this is my policy,” he said in Filipino.
Remulla said even supermarkets, groceries and drugstores inside the malls will be closed until the provincial government figures out how to implement social distancing and other quarantine protocols.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the government will have no choice but to reimpose the lockdown if the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to climb.
“There are only people that would be allowed to go out and work and many are still barred, just remember this—the easing up of the restrictions does not mean that COVID is gone,” he said.
READ: Workers’ return triggers warning
The government announced the gradual lifting of a two-month-long coronavirus lockdown in selected areas of the country to open up business and spur the slowing economy, despite increasing deaths caused by the virus.
The IATF eased the quarantine measures in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces by placing these areas under the modified ECQ.
For areas under the modified ECQ, authorities will allow the reopening of select manufacturing and processing plants, and there would be limited transportation.
“We are still under the community quarantine,” Roque said, adding that malls found violating quarantine rules will be closed and owners would be charged.
Roque said that President Duterte will be back from a brief visit to his hometown of Davao by Monday afternoon to meet with IATF members to discuss the country’s situation under the eased quarantine measures.
The ECQ imposed on March 15 on the entire island of Luzon, which accounts for the most number of COVID-19 cases in the country, was extended up to May 15, chiefly because efforts to control the contagion had not flattened the curve.
“We cannot afford a second wave,” Roque said, adding that despite relaxing the quarantine, the public must strictly follow rules set by the government.
Duterte appealed to local government units and the public to follow guidelines after the government relaxed the lockdown in some parts of Luzon, and millions of workers started to report for work on Monday.
Some experts believe that easing lockdowns and restarting of businesses and travel could trigger a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Shopping malls in Taguig City will allow only those bearing the unified quarantine pass (UQP), company IDs and certificates of employment for essential workers, the city government said Monday.
READ: Local Roundup: Workers shuttle in ‘new normal’
To ensure the safety of residents as the modified ECQ beings, Mayor Lino Edgardo Cayetano ordered his men to conduct inspection at shopping malls and similar establishments in the city.
The inspection of malls checked on the health and safety precautions in place of business establishments, the mayor said.
As work partially resumes in Metro Manila, the leftist Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said workers are left to fend for themselves as the government and employers refuse to provide transportation, protection from the pandemic and safe workplaces.
“Workers are front-liners too. We are returning to work because the economy needs the essential products we produce and we need to survive every day. The government and employers have failed to recognize our essence as front-liners. We are not sacrificial lambs,” said KMU Metro Manila spokesperson Ed Cubelo.
The group scored the lack of mass transportation provided for workers returning to work as seen on reports early Monday morning.
“Workers are forced to walk for hours in order for them to report to work. We are at risk of getting more exposed to the virus. We don’t deserve that,” said Cubelo.
He added, “Mass testing should also be conducted on all the workers. Guidelines that only symptomatic individuals should be tested have been proven wrong because there are asymptomatic persons. The Valenzuela and Marikina LGU’s experience on mass testing has already showed this.”
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