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PNP tightens border curbs even in low-risk areas

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Sunday ordered police to impose tight border controls to prevent further Covid-19 transmission.

This, after the OCTA Research Group underscored the importance of maintaining border controls in provinces or regions across the country amid possible easing of quarantine restrictions in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus.

“We guarantee that the PNP will maintain heightened measures on border control points so that the virus will no longer spread from one place to another,” Eleazar said in a statement.

Malacañang on June 10 said the NCR Plus, composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, would likely be placed under “ordinary” general community quarantine (GCQ) after June 15.

“At present, our police continue to closely monitor the quarantine control points, especially since there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in regions other than NCR. We are preventing the virus from spreading again even in areas that can be considered low-risk areas today,” he added.

Eleazar said the PNP will abide by the guidelines issued by the national government through the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) if there are any changes on border controls.

“We are only enforcing the rules laid down by the IATF so if there are any changes, in case the relaxation continues elsewhere, we will enforce it,” he said.

The PNP has been tasked to maintain quarantine control points to prevent unnecessary or non-essential travel, especially from areas under strict quarantine to the places with less strict quarantine.

Police manning these checkpoints have been instructed to allow the unhampered passage of vehicles carrying essential goods or those on important or essential travel.

Random inspections of vehicles are also conducted at the quarantine control points set up by the PNP in NCR Plus.

On Sunday, the League of Provinces of the Philippines said some provinces have asked the Department of Education for permission to use classrooms as temporary isolation facilities.

The organization’s president, Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. said some provinces were running out of isolation facilities as borders have begun to open.

Velasco reminded LGUs to impose requirements for travelers to prevent an increase in infections.

The Philippines logged 7,302 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,315,639, as one laboratory was not able to submit its data on time, the DOH reported.

The DOH reported 137 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 22,788.

The DOH also reported 7,701 patients who recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 1,232,986.

This left 59,865 active cases. Of the number, 91.2 percent were mild, 4.6 percent were asymptomatic, 1.3 percent were critical, 1.8 percent were severe, and 1.26 percent were moderate.

The DOH also reported that nationwide, 58 percent of the ICU beds, 48 percent of the isolation beds, 47 percent of the ward beds, and 36 percent of the ventilators, were in use.

In Metro Manila, 46 percent of the ICU beds, 37 percent of the isolation beds, 32 percent of the ward beds, and 32 percent of the ventilators, were in use.

The OCTA Research Group said Sunday that quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila could be eased further as cases decline.

Metro Manila and nearby provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, also called “NCR Plus”, may shift to a looser general community quarantine status (GCQ) this week, as COVID-19 figures in the area improve, Malacañang earlier said.

Metro Manila now contributes only 27 percent of COVID-19 cases in the country's daily tally from 97 percent during its peak between March 29 to April 4, OCTA fellow Guido David said.

David said virus reproduction rate, or the number of people affected by a virus patient, in Metro Manila is at 0.72, while the positivity rate is down to 8 percent and hospitalization rate is at a "safe level" of 40 percent.

“We support this because at this time, the situation in NCR is getting better... We can take some risks in opening businesses. So far, we have not seen community transmission in establishments," David said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. Willie Casas and Macon Ramos-Araneta  (See full story online at manilastandard.net)

"There will always be risks. What we're avoiding is big congregations," David said.

GCQ is the second most relaxed level in a four-level quarantine classification the government has been imposing since the pandemic started early last year.

The NCR Plus, home to some 24 million people, is under GCQ with additional restrictions until June 15.

David said the COVID-19 situation in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City is "improving" but should still be monitored.

The group said the average number of new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines decreased by 3 percent to 6,430 from June 4 to 11.

OCTA, in its latest report, said that the reproduction number in the country was recorded at 1.02.

A reproduction number of one or higher is an indication of the continuous transmission of the virus.

Some 27 percent of the new cases in the country over the past week were from the NCR Plus---- composed of the National Capital Region, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal.

OCTA observed significant increase in new cases in Negros Oriental, Leyte, and Agusan del Norte.

Data showed that Negros Oriental recorded 173 daily cases from June 4 to 11, Leyte recorded 162 new cases, and Agusan del Norte recorded 111 new cases.

Iloilo, Cagayan, Misamis Oriental, Negros Oriental, and Agusan del Norte had high health care utilization rates.

OCTA said the local government units of concern include Cagayan de Oro City, Iloilo City, Butuan, Dumaguete, Tuguegarao, Tacloban, and Cotabato City due to high hospital bed utilization rates.

OCTA also observed significant increases in new COVID-19 cases in Dumaguete and Tacloban. Cases in Dumaguete had an 80 percent growth rate to 57 while cases in Tacloban had a 70 percent growth rate to 45.

Dumaguete and Tacloban have also recorded an average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 42.12 and 17.04, respectively. OCTA said local governments with greater than 10 per 100,000 ADAR are considered high risk.

Also on Sunday, Senator Nancy Binay took Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat to task for letting a 6-year-old child go around tour sites and public areas without a face mask and face shield in a post on Instagram. Puyat, too, was not wearing a mask.

"Allowing a 6-year-old child to go around without a face mask and face shield in tour sites and public areas, and for a member of the Cabinet not [to practice] basic health protocols is flat out unacceptable," Binay said.

The Instagram post showed Puyat and 6-year-old Scarlet Snow Belo, a Tourism ambassador and daughter of celebrity doctors Vicky Bello and Hayden Kho, visiting several tour sites to encourage domestic leisure travel. Neither of them was wearing a face mask, however.

"I understand fully the concern of Secretary Berna in helping the industry... what everyone saw in her IG post is a disturbing lapse of judgment that showcased a series of public health and IATF violations," Binay said.

Binay said the government should be consistent in its messaging to the public, especially with children as part of the message.

She added that special emphasis must be placed on strictly following the minimum health and safety protocols even as certain restrictions are eased or lifted.

"Being in the government, we should be more conscious of our decisions or actions because you may be sending wrong signals to the public in showing that minors are already allowed to go visit tourist destinations," Binay added.

Topics: Philippine National Police , Guillermo Eleazar , COVID-19 , Checkpoint , Inter-Agency Task Force , NCR Plus
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