The spokesperson of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 clarified Wednesday that minors were allowed to travel domestically with their families, contrary to his earlier announcement, amid a surge in new infections.
Ret. Gen. Restituto Padilla said earlier Wednesday that only those aged 18 to 65 would be allowed to travel, in efforts to curb a recent surge in coronavirus infections.
But hours after his announcement, Padilla said, “I stand corrected.”
Meanwhile, the flag carrier Philippine Airlines reminded its clients that minors were allowed for domestic air travel.
“Minors are allowed to travel domestically with their families, including air travel around the Philippines, according to an urgent clarification issued by the Philippine Government’s National Task Force Against COVID-19,” the PAL management said in a statement.
The Task Force made the clarification in response to numerous queries received from airlines and travelers about the restriction concerning minors following a policy imposed in Metro Manila prohibiting persons aged 17-year-old and below from going outside their home.
“This paves the way for family travel during the upcoming Holy Week,” the PAL stated.
“The NTF allows minors to travel with their families point to point. The only restriction is their movement within Metro Manila specially to malls and crowded areas consistent with the announcement of the MMDA,” Padilla said in a text message.
“They may also avail (themselves) of domestic air travel with their families specially during the season of Lent and their academic break,” he added.
Metro Manila from Wednesday banned minors outside their residences as new daily COVID-19 infections surged to levels similar to the early months of the pandemic crisis last year.
The inter-agency task force leading the country’s pandemic response has yet to discuss whether or not to ban domestic travel of minors, said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.
Romulo-Puyat said she only learned of Padilla’s previous announcement after some social media users asked her if they might not bring along minors on tourist trips.
Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak, is under general community quarantine, but several measures have been put in place to arrest the fresh surge, including a curfew, liquor ban, and limits on flight arrivals, among others.
In a related development, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippine ordered all CAAP employees and personnel to strictly adhere to the protocols not only for the safety of its personnel but also for the welfare of passengers, guests, clients, and stakeholders within airport and office premises.
“The strict observance of these protocols is vital to everyone’s safety and in learning to live with the virus. As our country’s airport authority, CAAP wants to lead by example and show our passengers, clients, and stakeholders that we are serious in our desire to provide a safe and convenient traveling and transacting experience in CAAP airports and offices,” CAAP director general Jim Sydiongco said.
CAAP reminded its employees and personnel of the importance of following the protocols in order to safeguard the well-being of everyone and maintain safety.
Included in the guidelines are the limiting of face-to-face meetings and the practice of the “Keep Right” rule when walking in hallways, sidewalks and staircases.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police National Headquarters in Camp Crame will adopt a modified work arrangement for non-uniformed workers amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila.
In a statement on Wednesday, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said all heads of the offices were directed to assess the implementation.
“I have approved the adoption of a modified work arrangement that include (sic) work from home, for our non-uniformed personnel assigned at the NHQ at Camp Crame..” he said.
Eleazar said uniformed personnel were not included in the modified work arrangement, citing their regular law enforcement duties and other functions such as curfew enforcement.
“However, there is already an ongoing assessment on alternative work arrangement for our uniformed personnel,” he said.
According to him, the PNP is also studying if they will still continue the face-to-face classes in mandatory schooling and training of their personnel or shift them already to online classes.
At the same time, state-run People’s Television Network (PTV) will not be holding the regular Laging Handa briefing on the government’s COVID-19 response from March 17 to 21 due to extensive infection amid rising coronavirus cases.
In a statement, PTV said the station would go off air on March 17 and resume broadcast on March 18 and that its flagship programs Laging Handa Public Briefing and Ulat Bayan “will be back on air on Monday, March 22.”
“This is an effort to ensure the safety and well-being of its employees and staff at this time of rising COVID-19 cases in the country,” PTV said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment main office in Manila has temporarily stopped operations on Wednesday afternoon after several of its employees have tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In a virtual forum, Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced that the office started suspending operations at 2 p.m. and would remain closed until Thursday.
“If you noticed, I’m holding my office in the conference room because my office is under lockdown and some of the offices in the Department of Labor (and Employment) are also under lockdown because we have discovered that there are three employees that tested positive for COVID-19,” he said.
Bello, meanwhile, reported that he tested negative for COVID-19 based on his swab test results.
“Good news, I just got the result of my RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test, it’s negative,” he added.
Operations will resume only for essential workers on Friday.
“The start of the lockdown is at 2 pm today until tomorrow. On Friday, we will resume operation but selective reporting of essential workers. All the rest will report on Monday,” he added.
In the House of Representatives, House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said the situation at the House was “still manageable” and there was no need to put the chamber under lockdown.
The Speaker and his fellow legislators believe there is no need for such. Anyway, the session days are about to end in two weeks,” Mendoza said.
Congress will recess on March 26 for a Lenten break. It will resume session on May 17.
“At the same time, the Speaker and the House members would really want to finish the approval of pending measures before the Congress break. House bago mag-break,” added Mendoza.
“The situation is controlled, managed. The 29 cases are around two to three percent lang of the staff population.”
On Tuesday, Mendoza said a total 29 COVID-19 infections were recorded at the House.
At present, Mendoza said the House leadership was waiting for the clearance from doctors of 10 patients, and that they have already recovered from the disease.
Mendoza added that all committee hearings would be conducted through videoconferencing to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We have stopped all House activities especially flag-raising on Mondays and committee hearings,” Mendoza stressed.
He also said the lower chamber of Congress is operating at 30 percent capacity.
“Some employees are working from home and that working hours were already reduced to help in curbing the spread of COVID-19,” Mendoza added.
Meanwhile, Mendoza said more House employees have expressed willingness to avail themselves of COVID-19 vaccines, which are free for employees.
The vaccination may occur between May and June.
In other developments, Southern Police District operatives have apprehended more than 700 individuals in the continuing campaign against violators of curfew hours aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.
In its accomplishment report, the SPD with the help of local police stations caught a total of 758 persons during series of night operations in the cities of south Metro Manila.
The City of Paranaque got the highest number of apprehended violators with 188 total of arrest while Muntinlupa City caught 130 others followed by Makati City with 115 persons.
Most of those apprehended were brought to the police stations.
Of those apprehended, 424 were fined with at least P1,000, depending on the provision of ordinance being implemented by each of the local government unit. The rest have just been warned.
SPD district director Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz led his men in their second night of enforcing the unified curfew hours in the areas of Muntinlupa, Taguig, Pateros, and Las Piñas.
“Aside from checkpoints set up in a various strategic areas within SPD, police personnel also conducted round the clock foot patrol within their beats and mobile patrol operations,” said Cruz.
Cruz also inspected the areas to ensure that the unified curfew is being implemented correctly.
The SPD chief at the same time checked the deployed troops on their alertness and readiness in case of any eventualities. He also reminded his men to implement the curfew strict, smoothly and always observe minimun health standard protocols.
Members of the Metro Manila Council, which composed the 17 mayors in the National Capital Region, came up with a resolution and decided to impose long curfew hours (from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.) for two weeks beginning last Monday in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. With PNA