Holiday quarantine? LGUs to impose lockdowns if COVID-19 cases spike

Local government units will be forced to implement granular lockdowns until the end of the year should coronavirus infections surge during the holidays, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque issued fresh reminders to the public to observe health protocols against COVID-19 during Christmas gatherings to avoid virus transmission.

“Our strategy is to resort to localized and granular lockdowns. Ultimately, the public will decide if COVID-19 [cases] will increase or decrease during the holidays,” he said in a televised briefing.

The Palace official, however, said imposing stricter quarantine classifications in areas will be based on indicators such as critical care capacity or the ability of hospitals to deliver critical care in ICUs with ventilators.

An area placed under a granular lockdown should observe strict quarantine protocols and stay-at-home measures to control the spread of COVID-19 among residents.

Under granular lockdown, businesses can still continue but it must operate based on the guidelines for areas under modified enhanced community quarantine.

The government has introduced granular lockdowns, which are limited to a sitio, purok, or barangay with a high incidence of COVID-19, to avoid imposing stay-at-home measures in an entire city or province — an action which is deemed an obstacle to economic recovery.

Roque, meanwhile, urged Filipinos to refrain from talking while eating in restaurants, noting that coronavirus is transmitted through droplets.

“When we remove our face shields and face masks, that’s where transmission happens,” he said.

Analysts and researchers from the OCTA Research group, an independent body monitoring government figures related to COVID-19, have earlier flagged Metro Manila over its increasing virus reproduction rate this month.

From 0.90 on December 1, Metro Manila’s reproduction number hit 0.94 on 5 December, then reached 0.96 on 10 December, the group said.

The OCTA group, as well as health authorities, have repeatedly expressed concern that spikes in coronavirus cases are observed as Christmas approaches.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases have been urging the public to skip Christmas parties and gatherings.

In areas placed under general community quarantine such as Metro Manila, gatherings should be limited to immediate family or up to 10 members.

Street caroling, a popular Filipino practice during Christmas, is also prohibited as studies showed that individuals release respiratory droplets when singing.

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