PNP sets hard lockdown on NCR residents

Metro Manila residents who are outside the National Capital Region will not be allowed to return to their homes during the two-week COVID-19 lockdown that began Friday, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Guillermo Eleazar said.

LOCKDOWN BLUES. Hard lockdown and monstrous traffic snarl go hand in hand in the time of the pandemic while a Quiapo priest (lower right) is unfazed and holds virtual Mass for those who wisely opt to stay home. JR Josue, Danny Pata

and Norman Cruz

In an interview with GMA News Online, Eleazar said these residents can return when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is over.

On the other hand, Eleazar said, authorized persons outside of residence (APOR) or essential workers are allowed to enter the NCR.

“We don’t want people going in and out of Metro Manila, except for those worker APORs who are allowed to enter the region,” he said in Filipino.

Metro Manila returned to lockdown Friday as authorities sought to slow the spread of the hyper-contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 and ease pressure on hospitals while trying to avoid crushing economic activity.

Police checkpoints across the National Capital Region, where more than 13 million people live, caused long queues as officers in camouflage uniforms inspected vehicles to ensure only essential workers were on the road.

Experts warned that an explosion in Delta cases could overwhelm the health system if restrictions were not tightened in the crowded capital, which accounts for about a third of the country’s economy.

The stay-at-home order announced last week was expanded Thursday to include neighboring Laguna province. Restrictions were also tightened in other regions where coronavirus infections have spiked.

The Philippines has detected more than 330 Delta cases in recent weeks and there are fears the strain could tear through the nation as it has in neighboring countries.

Successive lockdowns and other restrictions, including a ban on children going outdoors, have shattered the economy and left millions jobless.

There are concerns the new lockdown will deepen the misery, with government assistance limited to P4,000 per household over the two-week period.

Only essential businesses and workers can operate for the next two weeks. Outdoor exercise is allowed, but an eight-hour nighttime curfew is in place.

“I hope the government will be able to give aid so it can help cover our expenses,” fish vendor Junrel Bihag said, describing life during the pandemic as “really difficult.”

Fears that unvaccinated people would not be allowed outside or receive government help during lockdown sent thousands flocking to vaccination sites on Thursday, forcing one location to close.

The rush to get jabbed came after President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that people who do not want to be vaccinated should stay home.

“If you go out I will tell the police to bring you home. You will be escorted back to your house because you are a walking spreader,” Duterte said.

But his spokesman, Harry Roque, rejected suggestions Thursday that the President’s remarks triggered the vaccination rush, instead blaming “fake news.”

“We are not imposing any prohibitions on people who are not vaccinated. We are merely asking that, now that the vaccine is there, everyone should get a jab,” Roque told reporters.

The country’s glacial vaccination drive has been hampered by tight global supply and logistical problems. Just over 10 million people are now fully vaccinated, representing 9 percent of the population.

Some 5,000 policemen were mobilized in different parts of Metro Manila and adjoining provinces at midnight Friday for ECQ duties aimed to establish a barrier against the potential spread of the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

Eleazar said that in Metro Manila alone, 1,203 personnel were scattered across NCR for law enforcement and public safety operations in 89 Quarantine Control Points to assist the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in the strict implementation of the ECQ.

Part of the PNP contingent is 4,346 uniform policemen who will be manning mobile control points in various locations of Metro Manila to strictly enforce the 8-hour curfew.

“These security personnel are under strict instructions to ensure that public health protocols are observed and mass gatherings are disallowed,” Eleazar said.

Earlier, he asked residents and transients to cooperate with police manning the checkpoints.

He said he understood the “quarantine burnout” that residents were experiencing but said it was wrong to say that the stricter measures were ineffective.

Some 7,337 police officers are deployed in 2,745 vaccination centers while 4,877 are manning 2,535 quarantine areas.

In other areas outside the NCR Plus bubble, the PNP deployed 9,180 police personnel in 1,103 quarantine control points.

On Friday, Eleazar also ordered local police to create a platoon or company-size quick reaction force to address crowding in vaccination centers.

Eleazar said units should be ready for deployment on short notice and must coordinate with local government officials in case vaccination activities might need to be canceled once the behavior of people in vaccination centers becomes rowdy.

“I have instructed all police chiefs to coordinate with local chief executives to determine the vaccination rules and process in their areas during the ECQ,” Eleazar said in a statement.

The measure came as people flocked to vaccination centers across Metro Manila on Thursday, a day before the two-week ECQ in the region over reports that unvaccinated individuals will not be allowed to go to work or receive financial aid.

This resulted in a breach of safe physical distancing and other minimum public health safety standards, and the cancelation of vaccination activities in some areas.

On Thursday, Malacañang ordered local government officials to implement measures to control crowding in COVID-19 vaccination centers, warning them that failure to do so can be considered a dereliction of duty.

Malacanang appealed again to the public to strictly follow health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID 19, saying living in lockdown is a tough choice but it will not be forever.

PNP sets hard lockdown on NCR residents
LOCKDOWN BLUES. Many other people find the chance to line up and have a shot of the life-saving vaccine in Marikina while a Quiapo priest is unfazed and holds virtual Mass for those who wisely opt to stay home. AFP

“This is for everyone’s welfare. I know it is difficult, costly but is necessary to protect the health of everyone,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“So do not worry because our lives won’t be like this forever because vaccines are the key to the return to our normal lives,” he said. With AFP

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